We are reaching another milestone in our household next week. My son recently turned 16 and he will take his first driving lesson on Monday. I’m telling you this not to give you the heads-up to stay off the roads of Bergen County to avoid this new driving hazard, but because it got me thinking about how career planning is all about sitting in the driving seat.

Up until now, my son has had very little control about where and when to go to places – the drivers in the family have called all the shots. Take a moment and think about your career planning. How much control have you taken of the situations you have found yourself in? Have you been a passenger or a driver?

Sometimes you need a good navigator in the passenger seat. This is where a career counselor comes in. A career counselor can show you alternative routes and directions to reach the same destination. It’s up to you to choose which one to take, and once taken, to follow all the necessary directions to reach your destination safely.

Sometimes you need to backtrack in order to go forward. Maybe your route requires you to have driving skills that you have not yet acquired, so if you choose that route you have to stop and learn the skills before going forward otherwise your journey will end in failure.

Sometimes you reach a road block or detour that wasn’t on the map. A career counselor can help you find a way around it.

Sometimes a wrong turn leads you down a path you did not plan for, but you enjoy the new scenery so much that you decide to change your path.

My son has now reached an age where he is going to be taking the driver’s seat literally and figuratively. The next year will see him lay out his first career plans as he decides on which colleges and in what areas of study he might be interested. His guidance counselors at High School will be his first navigators. They will help him set up his general direction. More specific routes will be suggested to him later. His routes will be influenced by who he is a person and what his natural aptitudes are. Some potential routes will be too risky for him, or maybe not risky enough. Some will require learning skills that will be too much of a challenge to him. Gradually, as he becomes more self-aware and discovers which routes he will enjoy traveling the most, he will narrow down his choices. A 16 year old has many choices ahead. As we progress in life, our choices become fewer, but we always have choices.