What should I do with my life?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

With the world changing faster than ever, how the hell is anyone meant to answer that question?

Whether you're studying, working, or desperately looking for work, thinking about ‘the future’ can leave us all feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed.

We chatted to young people from across Australia to learn about their different journeys and how they stay on top of stress about work and the future.

Henrietta, 20

Henrietta girl smiling with raised hand and university walkway behind her

After graduating from high school, I went straight to uni and studied Digital and Social Media with International Studies. However, as time went on, I started to become more and more passionate about social and political injustices and wanted to know how I could make an impact. I got involved with the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW) and realised that studying International Relations was the right path. At first, I doubted myself and thought: ‘Can I actually get the marks I need to get into this subject? But, eventually, I shook that thought and managed to swap degrees, and now I’m working towards something I really care about!

Brodie, 24

Brodie guy in button up collared shirt with office server behind him

Working in IT, a large part of my job consists of writing programs to allow computers to perform tasks on my behalf. I’m automating myself out of a job! But these programs sometimes fail, and technology is constantly evolving, so there will always be a demand for humans to be involved, even if the goal posts aren’t where we first thought they might be. As they say, when one door closes, many others open.

Danny, 19

Danny boy in casual wear smiling with university building and courtyard behind him

There’s so much to learn and discover outside of uni. I’m preparing for the future by volunteering at a not-for-profit, tutoring school students and working some casual jobs. I’ve learnt so much from all of these activities. I know that pursuing things that I love and want to learn about will help me find work when I finish my degree.

Angel, 21

Angel girl sitting on beanbag smiling holding notebook with office in background

Being a Psychology Honours student and doing an internship in the mental health sector has given me the benefit of working in the field before graduating. My plan is to do my Masters and start working in the field ASAP, and they encourage students to have work experience before applying. Having an internship while I’m studying (rather than when I’ve finished studying) will help me to reach my goals quickly and efficiently.

Lu, 20

Lu girl smiling in barn with cow next to her

I grew up showing cattle with my cousins. So, when it came to getting a job after school, I knew I wanted to do agriculture. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I love my job at the moment, which is working on a cattle stud. I always want to be doing something I enjoy.

Flight Lieutenant Daniel, 27

Dan guy wearing pilots jacket with airplane behind him

When I was in my mid-twenties, I realised that I’d been working very hard at my career since I was 19. It took a critical look at my work/life balance to realise that this had to change. I understood that I needed to focus on my personal wellbeing, too, and not just on my career.

Lillianne, 23

Lillianne girl sitting in empty theatre

As an actor and filmmaker, I really struggle to find opportunities in Australia. The work I do find is freelance, so I don’t get benefits like holiday and sick pay, which means if I'm paying rent, I blow through all of my savings over the Christmas shutdown. After losing a job due to budget restrictions, I ran out of most of my money and had to move back home. I decided then to move to London, where there are way more opportunities for those in the arts. My advice for my younger self would be to make your own work and to network like crazy.

Kwan, 24

Kwan guy smiling holding laptop sitting on grass

I studied Industrial Design at uni, but I didn't end up working in the industry. I decided to take a leap of faith and transition to product design for websites and mobile apps. It was pretty tough at first, but reading a heap of stuff, attending some meetups and doing a short course really helped me. A few years later, I followed the same process to get into product management. Continuous learning is super important, as the world is changing at a rapid pace and new jobs are emerging as a result. Being comfortable with the unknown, putting in the work and taking that leap of faith (even if it's scary and uncomfortable), plus having a sprinkle of patience, will get you there!

Dibs, 24

Dibs person wearing exercise clothes smiling in the park

Working a few casual jobs gives me the freedom to choose my weekly schedule and fit in things I want to do! But it comes at the cost of uncertainty and a lack of routine. It won't be forever, but for now it's working well.

Monica, 25

Monica girl smiling with arms crossed city streets behind her

I didn’t know exactly what my career would look like when I was at uni, but towards the end, everybody was telling me I should apply for the big grad programs. I found it pretty heavy going – psychometric testing, interviews, multi-stage applications, plus rejections. After over 25 applications, I changed course. I did an internship with Youth Action, and that gave me a lot of direction. Through networking and building my professional experience, I gained the confidence to apply for more jobs, this time in the not-for-profit field. Now I’m working full-time and looking forward to a career in this area.

Jack, 23

Jack guy kneeling surrounded by garden

When I haven’t been getting the jobs I want, it makes me question myself and feel a bit unwanted. But I have a great family that makes me feel better and always helps me to see the positive side. I just stay hopeful and try to see that not getting some jobs will lead to something better and build me up as a person to be more resilient.

Bianca, 23

BIanca girl wearing cardigan with traditional Aboriginal art smiling

Growing up, I had many passions and dreams. Although I got a lot of support from my family, there were others who didn’t show the same level of support. Unfortunately, I let someone change my idea of what I wanted to do, but from then on I refused to allow someone else to determine my future. Ultimately, from the negativity, I found strength and resilience and finally got to a point where I made my own motto: ‘Don’t prove others wrong; prove yourself right.’

Brandi-Lea, 17

BrandiLea girl holding wool with processing equipment behind her

I like hands-on work (and don’t really like being in the classroom), so I’m doing a school-based apprenticeship. It gets me out and experiencing real work and has opened my eyes to what I might want to do.

Christo, 22

Christo guy sitting casually with beach foreshore behind him

Having the flexibility with my jobs and study to do physical activity and the things I love is very important to me. I’m all about maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Allowing myself the time to go for a surf on my days off or to skate after work is what keeps me focused and on task when I’m at work or uni. When I don’t make time for these things, I get stressed and restless.

Laura, 23

Laura woman smiling with wine and tasting glasses

I was very fortunate to get my role as Cellar Door Manager. Where I live in Coonawarra, we are blessed with so many different wineries; after I finished school, I got a casual job working at the Koonara Wines Cellar Door. There, I found my love for wine. I worked a lot and got out into the community as much as I could. My current boss, Kristy Balnaves from Balnaves of Coonawarra, approached me for a quick chat – and here we are today. I absolutely love my job, and I believe when someone is passionate about their work, they’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.

Ben, 16

Ben boy wearing cap with hay stack and tractor behind him

I’d rather be learning hands on than in a classroom, which is why I choose to do VET agriculture. This includes one day a fortnight working on a farm – I grew up on a small farm, so the work interests me. When I finish school, I’m thinking of doing a year in the army to earn some money, and I’ll see where my career takes me from there.

What can I do now?

  • Take this quiz to find out what sort of worker you are.

  • While you're out there killin' and up-skillin' it, remember to take care of yourself.