By Janice Milan Moore, M.S., CRC, MGH Aspire Works Career Counselor

This question is frequently asked during my career counseling sessions and seminars. MGH Aspire Works participants often express their concern that the decision they are making now is one they will need to live with forever. How frightening is that to consider! How many of us, as adults, have gone through a few careers and/or job changes? We need to experience the journey of job-related trials and errors to learn what our preferences are. This is a fundamental part of growth and it is natural to discover what we like and don’t like along the way. A more productive question that we advise our participants to consider would be “is it worth the risk to try something new that you may not like or may not be good at?“

Developing self-awareness refers to building an understanding of ourselves; what we like and dislike, what causes us stress and what helps us calm down, and the impact of our actions on our world and those around us. This is something we spend a lot of time discussing and teaching in our career exploration and internships at MGH Aspire Works. The challenge for our participants lies in deciding whether taking a step into an unknown territory where things may not be predictable or pleasant is worth the inherent risk. As career counselors, we encourage our interns to explore this topic of risk-taking. I often marvel at the bravery required to step into an unknown territory. This can be a terrifying experience for anyone. My role as a counselor is to oversee this process thoughtfully and create an effective and secure situation for our participants and their families. It is much easier to stay in our known environments, than to edge out into an unknown unpredictable situation. However, developing self-awareness is only gained by taking risks and learning new things. In the end, the answer to the question “Will I have to do this forever?” is always a solid “No!”

We encourage our participants to engage in activities, while beginning the process of self-exploration, with support and guidance. Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers), for parents.

How can I encourage my child and/or young adult to take safe risks?

Encourage your child to try new situations with you. Explore new places and new foods, for instance, together. You may be greeted with an initial “no” response, but if you can break through, your child may be able to discover something new about themselves.

My son/daughter has very specific public transportation fears that are stopping him/her from applying to the internship. How can I help?

A great way to reduce this stress is to review the train routes and public transportation routes with your child. Take the train and bus with them, if possible, and allow them to purchase the tickets and tell you when to get off at a specific stop. Review safety procedures with them regarding talking to strangers, and when it is appropriate to ask for help.

What if my son and/or daughter dislikes the internship or job and wants to quit?

Not all jobs are easy or perfect. A good discussion starter could be, “I remember one of the first jobs I had…” and relay a similar difficult experience. Maybe the job wasn’t all positive, but there may have been useful knowledge or skills that you learned along the way.