What to Do After High School If You’re Not Going to College

Making a decision about what to do after high school isn’t easy, especially if many of your friends are headed to university.

There are so many options and not always enough life experience to really decide what’s right for you and your career.

Do you go straight to work? Do you start your own business? Do you listen to your friends and family who are pushing you in a certain direction? Do you find other education options?

It’s a lot to consider. It’s a lot of pressure.

The good news? You don’t have to answer lifelong questions right now or find the career that will suit you until you’re 60. You can move in a direction that makes sense for you now and, if you choose differently in two years, you’ll still be young, energetic and ready to pursue a new goal.

Here’s some perspective to consider.

Going to work

It’s incredibly rewarding to earn your own money, gain skills and take pride in your work. It can also help you see if this is a career path you want to pursue while adding valuable experience to your CV.

One of the most difficult parts about deciding what to do after high school is not having enough information to make decisions-- and working part or full-time will certainly clue you in to the type of work and environment you enjoy. Do you prefer a slower, quieter work environment in an office? Do you enjoy a fast-paced, physically challenging workplace? Do you like to work independently, or with a team? Do you like to lead other people, or follow directions?

Finding the answers to these questions will seriously help you understand the path you’re best suited for. Even if your first job isn’t glamorous, it’ll teach you a great deal about who you are and the right choices for success.

If you start to look around at your co-workers and manager and realize this isn’t the lifestyle or work for you, there are plenty of other options. It might mean that you’ve found a job path that just isn’t a fit-- and that’s ok! It may also mean that this career path requires you to get additional certificates or training so you can do more meaningful, exciting work reserved for more qualified workers.

Being your own boss

Perhaps you’ve already had some work experience or have a brilliant idea for a business. Starting your own business-- whether it’s a food truck, Airbnb hosting, a landscaping company or something else entirely-- means generating your own income and learning a TON in the process.


Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

If you’re skilled at leading people, making decisions, marketing your ideas and can create an in-demand product or service, you’ll go far. Entrepreneurship doesn’t always require a major investment and some of the wealthiest and most successful people ever got their start by creating their own work.

But it’s easier said than done. Talk to most business owners and they’ll tell you about their long hours, stressful days and a constant need to grow and learn. Entrepreneurship is just as much a lifestyle as it is a job and knowing smart business practices can save you from major headaches and problems.

There are tons of resources available to entrepreneurs-- and they don’t all lead to an expensive university. A Diploma of Business can give small business owners and entrepreneurs a major advantage by covering subjects like marketing, human resources, accounting and other lessons vital to growing a successful business.

Listening to your friends and family

Whether you want their opinion or not, chances are your friends and family are happy to add theirs to your growing list of concerns and considerations.

They mean well. They want you to succeed. However, some professionals argue listening to family and friends is a surefire way to fail. They bring in their own biases and experiences. Not to mention, work and careers have changed dramatically in the past 10 years-- and even more than when your great-uncle graduated from high school in 1954!

While it would be ignorant to suggest ignoring all advice your family and friends give, be aware that their advice and ideas aren’t necessarily right for you and need to match with who you are and what you want from life. While your parents may want you to work in an office like they do, you may be an insatiable travel bug and want the type of work that could take you all over the world.

Listening to friend's and family’s opinions is usually a constant theme throughout life, but you can get better at coping with and considering their advice. At the end of the day, it’s you who will have to do the work and experience the good and bad parts of the path you choose.

As entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says: “You can’t live your life based on other people’s point of view.”

Learning in a new way


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Fortunately, education has changed a great deal and a lengthy university degree isn’t the only way to learn and grow your skills. There are faster options that deliver marketable skills with classes taught by experts in their field.

Registered Training Organizations, or RTOs, are nationally recognised learning centres that offer vocational education and training, usually resulting in diplomas or certificates. These courses cover areas like hospitality, kitchen operations, business, event management, human resources and more.

Many students use RTOs to quickly gain skills, allowing them to get better jobs, receive a promotion or become much more competitive in the job market. It also allows students to test a path without committing to years and years in a university degree program. Many jobs in Australia require these types of certificates and diplomas, especially in kitchen service, so you’ll be opening yourself up to many more career options.

It’s an option perfect for students who want to keep learning, but have chosen not to go to university just yet. In fact, it can work especially well if you’d like to eventually enrol in university as it will give you credentials and experience that can help you pursue a university degree-- once you feel confident this is the right path for you! This is a path many school leavers take.

More good news

We’ve all been there.

Figuring out how to go from school leaver to a happy and fulfilled adult takes time and action. You may have plenty of ideas, or you’re not sure where to even start. You may have experience, or you may just be starting out. Wherever you’re at, you have the opportunity to live the life and work the job you’ve always wanted.

As Henry David Thoreau said, Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.”

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