Guest Post: Future Tense by Marc Verhoeve, MEd

I’m happy to share another excellent blog post by contributor Marc Verhoeve. As you’ll recall, Marc has experience in the full spectrum of career-practitioner roles…as a secondary-school counsellor and department head, part-time university faculty, private career-practitioner, career-assessment consultant and trainer, conference-presenter and author. His latest contribution touches on a topic of great personal interest to me, and coincidentally blends nicely with some of the research we’ve been working on around here…look for more on this topic in future blog posts.


In 1986, I authored an article, entitled Future Tense – An Open Letter to High School Students. It was published in the journal of UCPA [University College Placement Association].  In the introduction to the article, I stated:

“As you travel through your high school years, you experience pressure from all sides (parents, teachers, friends) to make the “right choice” about your future. The constant question is, “What do you wanna be?” At the same time, newspapers and television bombard you with horror stories about massive unemployment. As a result, you become what I call “future-tense,” and make decisions about your career on the spur of the moment based on minimal information. What I am describing here occurs all too frequently in Canadian high schools.”

After 27 years, the secondary-school scenario has not changed [except now we have the internet inundating us with data]. In fact, the financial dimension of this scenario has increased dramatically.  Current research projects that the cost of post-secondary education for a child born in 2013 will be double the cost of the present college degree/diploma.

This creates the pressure on adolescents [and parents] to make the right career decision…and the concomitant necessary post-secondary education.  There are two underlying issues that have to be addressed:

  1.  Adolescents make future job-decisions on a narrow scope of the world of work.  The average adolescent has a faint knowledge of 50 occupations and a good knowledge of about a dozen occupations [usually from direct exposure from relatives, friends and neighbours]….and there are over 10,000 occupational titles out there!  That is why it is essential that adolescents use other exploratory tools such as career assessments [e.g., JCE], cooperative-education credits, and job shadowing.  While career-assessments do not guarantee the “perfect fit” [there is no career-decision pill called Careerinol], they dramatically focus one’s job-search.  I frequently make the analogy of hunger.  If you are hungry, you could go to a local supermarket and try every food on every shelf.  This quest would take a lifetime.  The career assessment tool narrows this search to a section of one aisle, which is a more palatable task.
  2. There is not a specific age when one becomes totally aware of the dimensions of one’s skills, interests, values and personality.  This is a lifelong process.  The adolescent may not have a true sense of their self-image until they have left the parental home.  For this reason, more adolescents are considering a gap-year after secondary school before embarking on formal education. This self-awareness will also evolve with more life-experience.  In my career-practitioner role, I have assisted clients at all three career stages: career-start [adolescence], career-transition [middle-age], and career-renewal [retirees].  During these evolutionary stages, most of them had five or more job titles [most in the same work sector].  There are a small minority who could have predicted these job roles later in life.  In some cases, their present job did not even exist when they were in secondary school.

There is no question that there is a “fear factor” in career decision-making that can make one “future-tense”.  The road to career-fulfillment will probably have some detours of new self-awakening, but the ‘perfect job’ will not appear immediately…and our definition of our perfect job will evolve as we travel through life’s career journey.


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