Article written for ‘Many to Many’ the newsletter for Peace Through Unity – an NGO affiliated with the United Nations

Young people face an uncertain future. With the predicted impacts of Artificial Intelligence, mass migration, and food shortages due to climate change and war, work the way we know it now, is in doubt. My motivation for developing the online career decision-making tool, CareerPlanet was born out of this concern. Since I had already developed an online career assessment platform, I felt I could do something more to help.

After 25 years working in the careers industry, I had come to see that the Western career system with its strong focus on self-actualization, individualism, and life satisfaction was no longer helping the sustainability of the planet.  Ironically, the psychological focus on defining ‘the self’ as a predictor of ‘success’ burdens youth to be ‘more than’ or ‘better than’ – to be a separate self. This emphasis is no longer working for individuals, nor is it a sustainable philosophy for educating young people to be good collaborators with the ecosystems of life on the planet.

In my view, the era of rampant Individualism must be undone. No longer can the planet afford to operate under ‘Graylings Law’: Anything that CAN be done WILL be done if it brings advantage or profit to those who can do it. Equally, the current rise of autocracies worldwide as a response to individualism and freedom is also not likely to support peace and understanding.

Our accustomed ways of thinking about our place in the world are being challenged by the very lifestyles we have grown used to. As a species, we must realign our relationship with each other and the earth by learning from indigenous cultures where the land and community are central. If we shift our focus toward collective and environmental well-being, we could mitigate the social fragmentation and disconnection issues we have today. The mental health of our youth depends on knowing that they matter and are interdependent with the ecosystems and each other.

Young people are concerned about their prospects for a stable future. A recent Australian survey found that t 70% of Australian 15-year-olds’ expect the future to be ended by nuclear war. This hopelessness is compounded by the fact that when students enter their late teenage years, the mainstream education system puts pressure on them to choose the career path and earning stream they want to be in.  This approach to career education no longer addresses the concerns that young people have for the future. Rather, the status quo of career education reflects a lack of preparedness for the massive change our young ones are facing.

A new paradigm of collectivism must begin shaping a new world, providing the opportunity for environmental sustainability, peace, and collaboration. By promoting a balance between individual empowerment and responsibility to the collective, we can create a better world for all life on this planet.

So, my attempt to help shift this new morality is in the online career inquiry questionnaire, CareerPlanet. The information on our CareerEQ website says that “CareerPlanet intends to bring an inclusive perspective to career planning by emphasising that individuals possess diverse identities, cultures, and perspectives. By acknowledging our interdependence with a larger universe, students can realise their responsibilities towards one another and the planet.”

Māori academic and educator, Georgina Stewart (2021), suggests in her work that when our journey is grounded in what is familiar, what we know is true and of value, i.e. family, tribe, community, land, country, and ancestors, we build an identity that is healthy, connected, and resilient.

As a career inquiry process, CareerPlanet helps young people connect with what they know and understand of themselves and leads them to envision a future. The online process guides them in identifying potential career pathways and interests by asking questions such as “What would you like to be involved with and where could you make a difference?” A PDF report is created to reflect an individual’s aspirations for their land and people.  It maps how the individual sees themself and where and how they contribute, in a way that is unique to them.

CareerPlanet helps students to think about:

  1. The kind of future they want for their country, their people, themselves, and the planet. This is a big question, however, whatever they arrive at will give them something to work towards.
  1. The areas of interest they would like to contribute to. This would also align with what motivates and matters to them.
  2. The learning they would need – so that they could develop their potential to help the planet.

The inquiry explores career motivations, values, interests, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals the student would like to help with. The language is simple, gently suggesting that they live within an interconnected and interdependent world. This leads students to believe that the world needs them and that they can help. The tool maps a student’s unique skills and interests, assisting them in gaining clarity on where they can contribute in a way that suits them.

By focusing on the intrinsic nature of motivation, values, and challenges of interest, students are resourced to navigate the future, knowing what matters to them.  CareerPlanet’s straightforward inquiry process brings these elements into focus, offering valuable preparation for a meaningful career discussion between students and their career advisors. Making meaningful career decisions allows young people to feel inwardly resourced and empowered to explore further study that could lead to meaningful work.

The Tree of Life image on this page demonstrates this interdependence. It illustrates how, by having its roots in what is known and of value, we draw learning from different sources throughout our experience and, as we discover more about ourselves, begin to realise where our contribution can be made.

In the development of CareerPlanet I researched theory widely, specifically in the areas of individualism, collectivism, indigenous thinking, psychology, and educational philosophy. The future of this work needs to continue to make a difference for students. Among other things, this would involve the development of quality resources for teachers and career advisers in schools.

Promoting this approach to making career decisions has become urgent, in my view.


Kaye Avery