“Where from Here?”


Seventeen-year-old Tom is planning to become an engineer. From the time that he was a small boy, he has dreamed of the day when he could help design and build bridges. Tom has always loved math and started taking algebra in the eighth grade. Last year he completed trigonometry and college algebra, and he is currently taking calculus.

Tom won first prize for his display at his science fair this year. He has been working with his school counselor and has just received a four-year scholarship to his state college to study engineering.

Jim, Tom’s best friend, hasn’t really thought much about what he wants to do when he graduates from high school. After seeing a moon-shot this week, he decided to become an astronaut. Last week he thought that being a forest ranger would be exciting, and the week before that he had decided to join the navy.

Jim’s parents are getting anxious about his future—after all, he’ll graduate from high school next month. He hasn’t applied to any schools, checked on the job situation, doesn’t know who his school counselor is, and his parents haven’t made any plans to pay for a mission or school expenses.

Both Tom and Jim come from active Latter-day Saint families. They’ve grown up together and attended the same schools. Suddenly it seems that Tom knows where he’s going, while Jim is caught in the turmoil of running out of time without having made a decision.

Did this circumstance just “happen” for both boys? Why is it that some seem to have an easy time deciding on a career while others never know what they want to do? Perhaps in Jim’s case his parents didn’t encourage him or didn’t know how to encourage him to begin his vocational planning.

Authorities agree that there isn’t a specific time when a career decision should be made. In fact, it is a process rather than an event. However, some tentative decision-making should be attempted early in life rather than late. Getting an early start gives the young person a chance to study a number of occupational fields before making a definite decision.

According to Robert J. Peters, counselor for the Church’s Educational and Career Advisement Center, “Today’s youth should have a general idea of what field they would like to work in when they are in high school. It isn’t necessary for them to have decided that they are going to be engineers, or secretaries, or salesmen, but they need to have started to funnel their skills and interests in a direction.

“The person who doesn’t aim in a given direction,” he said, “may wander and drift without ever arriving anywhere, while the person who plans ahead will have a better chance of arriving at his destination and will know where he is once he has arrived. Even if you aim someplace and find out it isn’t what you had in mind, at least you have eliminated one alternative.”

Brother Peters advises parents: “When youths establish goals, they don’t wander aimlessly; instead, they exchange them for other goals.”

There is a strong relationship between home environment and career development. Parents have more influence on their children’s career choices than do their teachers, friends, or counselors. Not only do they pay the bills in many cases, but they also help form attitudes and feelings about various jobs and the training needed to get them.

It is in the home that youngsters discover their vocational as well as basic needs. Casual conversations of children may often reveal attitudes and feelings that have been learned in the home.

For example, a child who has been reared in a home that stresses helping others may say, “When I grow up I want to be a doctor and find a cure for cancer.” Another who has had orientation toward monetary importance may say, “When I grow up I want to be a doctor so I’ll make lots of money.” These casual conversations may not be just fads of the moment, but may reflect lasting attitudes that these children have learned in their homes.

One of the most important roles that parents can fill in helping their children to select careers is to point out alternatives in jobs or training. This creates a problem, because in many cases it is difficult for parents to stay up-to-date on current job trends, training requirements, post-high-school education alternatives, and occupational information.

But there are many sources in the community that offer help to both parents and youth, and many of these are available without charge. School counselors, community or junior college guidance services, state employment services, chambers of commerce, church leaders, and local businessmen are all excellent resources. In the United States, information is available on the 30,000 job titles in the country today, and there are more than 2,000 colleges and universities and more than 1,000 trade and technical schools. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is available through the U.S. Government Printing Office at a cost of $4.25. This contains excellent information on jobs and tells where the greatest opportunities exist.

The important thing for parents to know is where they can go for help. Opportunities for post-high-school training, other than college, are increasing rapidly with a demand for the technically trained person. If parents do not find out about these two-year programs in community or junior colleges, apprenticeships, or vocational programs, oftentimes their children are not aware that they have alternate choices.

Leaders of the Church have recognized the importance of counseling young people to prepare for their lifework. The First Presidency stated in 1966: “The Church has long encouraged its members, and especially its youth, either to obtain a college education or to become well trained in some vocation in a trade school. In our fast-growing industrial society, this becomes almost a necessity, for unless our young people are well educated or well trained, they will not be able to obtain proper jobs or positions in the future. The jobs that require no education or training are decreasing from year to year and soon will be practically nonexistent.”

The Church is initiating a Gospel of Work for Youth program to assist youth and parents in making career decisions and to help youth cultivate the desire to work. The program is set up not only to help youth learn how to plan for work, but also to help parents develop skill in assisting their children. The Gospel of Work for Youth program will be under the direction of the Church Welfare Department and each ward’s welfare and bishop’s youth committees. Two segments of the program will be introduced in 1972:

1. A “Where from Here” career seminar will be conducted in each stake or ward from January through March. At the seminar, youth from 14 to 18 years of age will learn the importance of making lifework decisions and will map out their future plans on a “Where-from-Here Career Guide.” Each youth will take his “Where-from-Here Career Guide” home to be shared with his parents and filed for future use. Parents are encouraged to check the guide carefully and may wish to do so as a family home evening activity.

2. In April, “How to Get a Job” bishop’s youth discussion meetings will be presented in each ward or stake to help youth learn how to prepare for, find, and keep a job. Emphasis will be placed on summer and part-time jobs.

The Church’s Educational and Career Advisement Center is developing a career and vocational resource center to be used by youth of the Church. The center is located in room A–152 ASB, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84601.

[photos] Model for photographs: Rob Koch, Salt Lake City

Dr. Johnson, a counseling psychologist in the Educational and Career Advisement Center at Brigham Young University, has written many articles and What’s Up, a book about teenagers. He is bishop of the Orem (Utah) 16th Ward, Sharon Stake.