The young adults selected for inclusion in the study participated in a one-on-one interview lasting 60 to 90 minutes, which focused on what they had been doing since graduating from high school. Specifically, they were asked to reflect on what influenced the pathways they took and what supports and constraints they encountered as they made their way into post-secondary education and/or directly into the workforce. As well, they were asked to share any advice they might have for how parents and professionals could best help young people. The interviews were audio taped, transcribed, and analyzed for both common and unique themes. Follow-up interviews were conducted with those who were willing to be contacted again.

Initially, the study focused on three clusters of questions:

  1. What youth want: We seek to understand the career and life aspirations of young people in the context of the social and personal challenges we mention above.
  2. What youth have: We seek to understand the resources, individual, family, social and environmental, that influence the paths open to them.
  3. What youth hear: We seek to understand what young people hear about their aspirations. We will document the messages they hear from the internalized discourses they carry within them, as well as the messages they hear through conversations they engage in with family and significant others, and the broader, culturally embedded messages to which they are subjected.

The answers to these questions was analyzed using qualitative research methods associated with what is termed “grounded theory.” This approach emphasizes that explanations about what people are doing should emerge from the data. Using these methods, we proceeded from the case-by-case study of individuals to a theory that explained commonalities and differences among the study’s participants.

The second part of the project was the dissemination of the results. Two handbooks based on the findings that emerge from the study were developed. The first of these targets parents as studies of young people have shown that parents are the primary influencers of high school graduates in terms of their choices of educational and occupational pathways. The second handbook targeted at guidance counselors and career counsellors, identifying helpful and unhelpful interactions and interventions relevant to practice with young adults in order to inform effective helping.