Decision Time: How So What Comes Next? Supports Teen Career Decision-Making

Navigating the journey from adolescence to adulthood is a critical period for teens, particularly when it comes to career decision-making. This stage is marked by significant physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, and it is a time when young people begin to explore their identities, values, and aspirations. The decisions made during this period can have lasting impacts on their future careers and overall life satisfaction. As they approach this pivotal stage, it is essential for teens to proactively engage in career planning to ensure a smoother transition into the professional world.

The Importance of Proactive Career Planning for Teens

Being proactive in career planning during the teenage years can significantly influence future success and satisfaction. Here are several reasons why it is essential:

– Early Self-Discovery

Engaging in career planning helps teens explore their interests, strengths, and values early on, providing a critical foundation for their future decision-making. This process involves self-assessment activities that encourage teens to reflect deeply on what they enjoy, what they excel at, and what matters most to them. By identifying these key elements, teens can gain a clearer understanding of their unique personal and professional identities. This self-awareness is foundational for selecting a career path that aligns with their intrinsic motivations and capabilities, ensuring that their choices are not only informed but also aligned with their long-term goals and passions. 

Furthermore, early career planning allows teens to set realistic and achievable milestones, fostering a sense of purpose and direction. As they gain insights into their personal preferences and strengths, they are better equipped to pursue educational and career opportunities that resonate with their authentic selves, leading to greater satisfaction and success in their professional lives. This proactive approach also helps teens avoid the pitfalls of choosing a career based solely on external pressures or misconceptions, ultimately guiding them towards more fulfilling and sustainable career paths.

– Goal Setting

Proactive career planning empowers teens to set clear, achievable goals, which are essential for providing direction and sustaining motivation as they work towards their aspirations. When teens take the initiative to outline their career objectives, they can create a roadmap that delineates the steps necessary to reach their desired outcomes. This process involves setting both short-term and long-term goals, which helps in breaking down the journey into manageable and attainable milestones. Each milestone achieved reinforces their commitment and builds confidence, thereby fostering a strong sense of purpose and drive.

Setting specific goals also helps teens stay focused amidst the myriad distractions and challenges that can arise during their developmental years. It acts as a guiding star, ensuring they remain on track and aligned with their broader ambitions. With clear goals in place, teens are less likely to drift aimlessly or become discouraged by setbacks, as they have a defined path to follow and a concrete vision of their future.

Moreover, goal-setting cultivates important life skills such as time management, prioritization, and self-discipline. By regularly setting and reviewing their goals, teens learn to allocate their time and resources effectively, prioritize tasks that align with their career aspirations, and maintain the discipline required to achieve their objectives. This structured approach not only enhances their academic and extracurricular performance but also prepares them for the professional challenges ahead.

In addition, having well-defined goals provides a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Each goal reached serves as a tangible reminder of their progress and potential, reinforcing their belief in their abilities and the feasibility of their dreams. This cumulative success builds resilience and a positive mindset, encouraging teens to aim higher and strive for continuous improvement.

Ultimately, proactive planning and goal-setting empower teens to take control of their futures with confidence and clarity. By mapping out their aspirations and charting a course to achieve them, they transform abstract dreams into actionable plans, laying the groundwork for a successful and purposeful career journey.

– Skill Development

Identifying desired career paths early allows teens to concentrate on acquiring the relevant skills and experiences necessary to thrive in their chosen fields, thus enhancing their competitiveness in the job market. This early focus provides a strategic advantage, as teens can tailor their educational and extracurricular activities to align with their career aspirations. By understanding the specific requirements and expectations of their desired professions, they can proactively seek out opportunities that build the necessary competencies and credentials.

This targeted skill development can encompass a variety of activities, including selecting educational courses that offer foundational knowledge and specialized training pertinent to their career goals. For instance, a teen interested in a career in engineering might prioritize advanced mathematics and science courses, while someone aspiring to enter the healthcare field might focus on biology and health sciences. These deliberate educational choices ensure that teens are well-prepared for higher education and professional training in their chosen fields.

In addition to formal education, internships provide invaluable hands-on experience and insights into the practical aspects of various careers. Internships allow teens to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings, develop industry-specific skills, and gain a deeper understanding of workplace dynamics. They also offer networking opportunities with professionals in the field, which can be instrumental in securing future job opportunities and mentorship.

Extracurricular activities also play a crucial role in skill development and career preparation. Participating in clubs, sports, volunteer work, and other extracurricular endeavors helps teens develop soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. These skills are highly valued by employers and can distinguish candidates in a competitive job market. For example, involvement in a debate club can enhance public speaking and critical thinking abilities, while participation in a robotics club can foster technical and engineering skills.

Moreover, engaging in diverse activities allows teens to explore their interests and passions more deeply, confirming their career choices or helping them pivot to more suitable paths. It also demonstrates a proactive and well-rounded approach to personal development, which is attractive to colleges and employers alike.

Ultimately, early identification of career paths and the deliberate pursuit of relevant skills and experiences empower teens to build a strong, competitive profile. This strategic approach not only enhances their qualifications but also boosts their confidence and readiness to enter the workforce. By focusing on targeted skill development through educational opportunities, internships, and extracurricular activities, teens can position themselves for success in their future careers, ensuring they are well-equipped to meet the demands and challenges of their chosen professions.

– Reduced Anxiety

Having a plan in place can reduce the uncertainty and anxiety associated with the transition from school to work, fostering a sense of confidence and preparedness. Teens who have a clear roadmap are less likely to feel overwhelmed by the choices and challenges they encounter.

The Role of Educators and Parents

Educators and parents play a critical role in supporting teens as they navigate their career planning journey. Here are some ways they can help:

– Encouragement and Support

Providing encouragement and emotional support is vital. Teens are more likely to pursue their goals and take risks when they feel supported by their parents and teachers.

– Access to Resources

Ensuring that teens have access to valuable resources like So What Comes Next? and career assessment tools can make a significant difference. Parents and educators can help by recommending these resources and guiding teens on how to use them effectively.

– Creating Opportunities

Parents and educators can create opportunities for teens to explore different careers through internships, job shadowing, and career fairs. These experiences provide practical insights and help teens make informed decisions about their future paths.

So What Comes Next? by Michael A. Deffina: A Framework for Success

Michael A. Deffina’s So What Comes Next?  is an invaluable tool for teens as they embark on their career planning journey. The book’s author reflects, “I remember well the feeling of emptiness as a teenager, stemming from the uncertainty about my future as an adult. Although I received general guidance about school and career options, I wasn’t sure how it applied to me.

Unlike broader guides such as Sean Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” which spans 244 pages of general advice, So What Comes Next? is a concise 42-page guide focused on actionable steps and personalized planning. This book stands out for several reasons:

– Personalized Plans

The book includes downloadable programs that help readers develop specific, personalized plans tailored to their unique needs and goals. This approach ensures that teens can create actionable steps that resonate with their individual aspirations. These resources enable teens to craft a path that aligns with their personal interests, strengths, and career objectives.

– Brevity and Relevance

Its concise format makes it more accessible and engaging for teens, increasing the likelihood that they will follow through with the planning process. The focus on brevity ensures that the content is not overwhelming, but instead provides clear, direct guidance that teens can readily apply.

– User-Friendly Tone

Written in a tone that resonates with teens, So What Comes Next? encourages readers to take control of their future with confidence and purpose. The approachable language and relatable examples make the concepts easy to understand and implement.

By offering a structured framework for personal discovery and strategic planning, So What Comes Next? empowers teens to navigate their transitions with confidence. The book’s focus on brevity and relevance ensures that it has a positive impact, helping teenagers embark on their career journey with clear direction.

Additional Career Planning Resources

In addition to So What Comes Next?, there are other valuable resources that can assist teens in their career planning efforts:

CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment tool helps users identify careers that align with their interests. It offers three different assessments to match individuals with careers based on their interests, skills, and workplace values. These assessments can introduce new career ideas and highlight motivating work activities, providing a comprehensive overview of potential career paths. – CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment


The 16Personalities website offers a free personality test that reveals an individual’s traits, strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Understanding these personal attributes can guide career choices by linking personality types to suitable professions and occupations. Ultimately, these insights can lead to a more fulfilling personal and professional life. – Take the 16Personalities Test 


Proactive career planning is crucial for teens as they navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Resources like So What Comes Next? by Michael A. Deffina provide a much-needed framework for personal discovery and strategic planning, empowering the next generation to confidently navigate their transitions. By combining personalized plans, a user-friendly tone, and additional resources like CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment and 16Personalities, teens can embark on their career journey with clarity and purpose.

Parents, educators, and the teens themselves can all play a role in this important process. By working together and utilizing the right resources, they can help ensure that today’s teens are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s workforce.