Confidence in Career Path Helps Students Adjust After High School

When teenagers enter high school, they are faced with myriad decisions. Aside from the social choices of which behaviors they will adopt, which friends they will socialize with, and which clubs and sports they will participate in, they must also begin to address the question of post-high school plans. Few students have a clear idea of what profession or educational path they will pursue upon graduation, and most don’t even begin to explore these avenues until the second half of their high school experience. However, aspects related to career planning are important predictors of future adjustment.

Kate Stinger of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University recently conducted a study that measured how career confidence, planning, and indecision in high school affected young adults’ adjustment four and a half years later. Stinger evaluated 454 high school seniors for levels of self-actualization, emotional consistency, and social adjustment at the onset of her study. She then assessed those same domains relative to career indecision, confidence, and planning several years later and found that planning for a career in high school helps later social and emotional adjustment. Stinger also discovered that having confidence in career choice strongly indicated positive adjustment. Additionally, the participants with the highest levels of social adjustment exhibited the most confidence in their career choices.

Stinger also examined career indecision and noticed that the students with the highest levels of adjustment or career confidence had the lowest levels of career indecision. However, those that did have indecision did not have decreases in adjustment if they were confident in their ability to eventually achieve their professional goals. Planning emerged as a positive factor with respect to adjustment also, and Stinger believes that students may benefit from working with their peers to develop strategies for achieving their desired careers. Stinger points out that students must engage in activities related to the pursuit of their goals in order to reap the rewards of planning. Doing so will strengthen their confidence and increase their well-being in the long run. “Overall, our findings suggest that career confidence is essential to build as youths make the transition from high school to postsecondary education and/or work,” Stinger said.

Stringer, Kate, Jennifer Kerpelman, and Vladimir Skorikov. A longitudinal examination of career preparation and adjustment during the transition from high school. Developmental Psychology 48.5 (2012): 1343-354. Print.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • nicola


    September 18th, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I had no clue what I wanted to study after highschool.Went in for a course in literature and although I still am not sure about what I really want I am really enjoying this.I don’t know I just think there will be some eureka moment when I will truly know I guess.Until then its doing what I am doing :)

  • Parker C

    Parker C

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    How on earth are you supposed to have confidence about your career path right after high school when most of us did not have a clue what waited for us outside of that until after we graduated and went to college?

    And even after I got to college I still ended up changing my major about 4 times because I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up!

    And while there are many people who see that as a bad thing, I saw it as my real chance to find out who I was and what I wanted to do. I am still not even sure that I want to be at my job that I have now for the rest of my life, but finding out the areas that I loved and was most interested in was not something that could have ever happened to me whan I was still a teenager and I think that it is unfair to expect so many kids to make these decisions at such an early age.

  • Doris


    September 18th, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    Simply allowing high school students to have the opportunity to experience different career paths through internships and shadowing programs could be so very beneficial to most any syudent. Most of the time they do not even realize all of the opportunities that that the work field has to offer until they are thrown out there. let them see from an early age what their many options are and this alone could help them to be a better decision maker about what path they may choose to pursue.

  • Martha


    September 19th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    High school guidance counselors spend a whole lot of time working with the honors students and those who make good grades. Why not so it a little differently and instead spend a little more time working with your more average B/C students and giving them some guidance as to the things that are open to them?
    The kids that already make good grades are most likely going to get what they need at home. Their parents are going to be available for them to consult, whereas the average students could use a little more help then what they have been given to discover what their opportunities could be.

  • michelle adams

    michelle adams

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    always true isn’t it!confidence in what you are going to do is always a great thing and not only is it true for students but even for adults in their work.but I certainly think this confidence is declining, majorly due to the uncertainty of jobs and a good career for young people’s hoping that changes soon!

  • Lashay


    September 19th, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    I really appreciate the work that was done in identifying needs that students face in transitioning from HS to college. I work with this population daily and recognize the frustrations they face with being expected to “know” what they want for a career or major as they enter college. Not a fair expectation. With exposure to liberal arts curriculum, more options open up and then even more confusion is created because they recognize “liking” something but not sure to what extent. So then comes the question “do you like this subject enough to study it intensely for at least two years?” Does it peak your interest to want to know more about it or is it more of a general interest? Once the level of interest is gauged, then discussions can take direction about careers. So in a sense, although talking about careers you need to also determine what the relationship to the major is with that career (is it to keep options open for later or is it to directly lead into a direct industry of work i.e. technical degrees). I’m just sayin’………..

  • Allison


    September 19th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    How about just tecahing our kids more about how to be a confident person ion generaL?
    It doesn’t just have to be with their careers, I would like to see more young people simply become confident in who they are and be able to recognize and use the talents that they have been givem.
    I think that many times we make poor decisions in life because we are not sure of ourselves and our own strengths.
    I think that students would be so much better prepared for life if they were provided with the skill set that they need to recognize that they are worthwhile, that they can find something that they love and that they can be good at whatever dream they would like to pursue if they will just buckle down and give it a try.

  • m phillips

    m phillips

    September 19th, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    its pretty obvious a high school kid being sure and certain about his career choice is someone who is organized,knows what he is doing,and will therefore make a good employee and will also have no problem shifting to college after school is for the others that are unsure and just have no idea what they want to do with their life things are tough,yes.

  • Lang


    September 20th, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    The kids that I feel bad for are these kids who grow up in dead end towns with a dead end economy and really have nothing better to look forward to after graduating. Now how are you supposed to improve their career confidence when you are faced with a situation like that?
    Many of these kids are looking at their parents and the dead end lives that they have been living for all this time and they know that this is not what they want for themselves, but they have trouble with knowing how to avoid this for themselves.
    What can we do for them?

  • felicity


    September 21st, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Most of us would feel a whole lot more confident and assured if we were in a career that meant something to us, but most of us don’t learn this for a long time, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. The search, that journey toward more happy days than bad is the thing that taught me so much more about myself and other people than I would have ever learned had I come right out of high school and automatically achieved complete fulfillment. I don’t even think that’s possible at that age!

  • Savana


    September 22nd, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    I don’t know of very many people who are confident simply because of their job.
    They are confident because that is who they are, and that alone can lead to overall more confidence in evevrything they do in lfe.

  • Daisy


    September 24th, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    All of this so closely ties in together that it is hard for me to say that I think that this causes that, understand? What I mean is that kids who have higher levels of confidence in themselves and their abilities these will nomally be the kids that oyu will expect to be better prepared, to go to college, find out who they are and then make career choices based on what they enjoy or what makes them feel good. It has always been the children who don’t do so well in school. who have little confidence in themselves and their abilities, who will have the hardest lives in general. They have grown up perhaps without the right support, or the right classes and cerainly have not had the advantage to go to college and pursue a career in what they love. Many have been forced to put their own lives on hold to take care of other things and this has caused them to not have as happy of a life as they probably could have.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.