12th Grader’s Got No Career Direction? Do This—Right Now.

Your 12th grader hasn’t yet figured out “what he wants to do with his life,” and it’s making you nervous. You absolutely don’t want him living in your basement next year—partially for fear he’ll turn into one of those 20-something kids floundering through their 20s without jobs that actually allow them to support themselves.

Don’t lose another night’s sleep over this. You can help your child take aim and shoot at an exciting future that’s beautifully suited to him.

7 Ways to Help a 12th Grader Who Needs Career Direction

1. Get your child three specific career assessments as soon as possible. I’ll help you.

I clearly explain why and how in chapter 13 of my book, LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward

To see which assessments I recommend and where to find a certified practitioner to administer them, visit the Approved Consultants tab on this website.

I’m convinced that having this career direction work done before starting college can save your family $50,000 in tuition payments for unneeded college classes.

If your child doesn’t want to take career assessments, read this article on paying teens to do things.

2. What was your son’s personality type on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator? INTP? ESFJ? Read the chapter on that personality type in the book Do What You Are.

I love the book Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, and Kelly Tieger. This book will provide a huge number of possible career goals for your son based on how his personality type thinks, works, and processes information.

3. Your child’s still resistant to the idea of taking career assessments, even when you offer to pay him to take them? Do this.

Your child’s resistance is not surprising. He or she may have had some career assessments done in the past that were processed entirely by machines, and so gave some unbelievable, inaccurate results.

Have your child read pages 136–137 of my book, LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward

On these two pages, I speak directly to students ages 10th grade and up, using these words to persuade them to give career assessing one more chance:

Student, imagine how you would feel, walking into a workplace where you know you’re likely to do an extremely good job at whatever it is you’re asked to do. A workplace where your coworkers, colleagues, and bosses look at you with increasing respect because the work you put out is consistently of extraordinary high quality.

What if you could quit spending valuable time and energy trying to fix your shortcomings, and instead concentrate your efforts on using and further developing the things you’re already naturally good at?

There’s much more in the two pages where I convince your child to willingly accept career direction help, but you get the idea.

4. Go online and fill out the FAFSA form right now, tonight. I’ll help you.

Your daughter may not have any sense of career direction today, but what if three months from now she suddenly decides that college or an exciting two-year technical or vocational program is for her? You’ll want to have all the free money you can get lined up to pay for it.

The first step in this process is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Do it now, and you’ll put your child in line for nine separate federal student-aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States. Just in case she ends up needing it.

There are numerous reasons to fill out the FAFSA form even if you’re rich. When you do so, avoid these 30+ common FAFSA mistakes that can prevent you from getting all the free money you have coming.

If your child doesn’t end up using his or her free financial aid money this year, that’s no problem. 

5. Sit down with your child, look through the assessment results and your son’s chapter in Do What You Are, and help him pick three interesting careers to explore.

No need to feel paralyzed by this decision. He can always change his mind later. No pressure.

Do you wonder what some of the listed careers are, what kind of education they require, and what they pay? Google the name of that career and the letters “BLS” (Bureau of Labor Statistics). You’ll find a beautiful, easy-to-read page that will lay out everything you’re looking for.

6. Help your son find opportunities to “job shadow” people who currently do those jobs.

Mom, Dad—your own LinkedIn.com network of contacts will be a great way to find people for your son to “job shadow.”

You’ll find my helpful, empowering info on job shadowing on pages 195–197 of my book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

7. Lovingly tell your son or daughter these critically important words.

Ready? Here they are:

“We’ll be glad to provide you free room and board after your high school graduation, as long as you’re enrolled in and making successful progress through a full-time academic or job training program.”

Is your kid thinking about taking a “gap year”?

Quick—read his helpful article I’ve written on 5 Good Reasons to Take a Gap Year (and Two Bad Ones).

If you’ve found valuable info in this article, please help me by tweeting it out to the people who follow you.

Have you heard?

Exciting FAFSA changes may apply to you in 2022–2023 and beyond. Be the first to learn about them when you subscribe here.

Even students who insist that they “already know what they want to do” need high-quality career assessing before they pay one penny for college or tech school.

For clear, step-by-step help with the whole process from beginning to end, get your copy of my book:

It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.

You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:


(Tell your friends.)

You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.

Subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter here.

Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?

It’s my members that get most direct access to me. Doors to my membership open each year for just 5 days in March, and 5 days in September. It costs just pennies per day, but space is limited. Join the Waiting List here.

Get regular, inspiring help straight from me—every Monday morning.

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What about you?

What are your thoughts about having students take career assessments while still in high school? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.

This article on career direction for 12th graders was originally published on this blog on March 11th, 2015. It was most recently updated on November 13th, 2020.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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