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Michael Deffina’s Guide to Teen Career Exploration Resources

Michael Deffina's Guide to Teen Career Exploration Resources
Photo: Unsplash.com

By: John Glover (MBA)

Navigating the journey from adolescence to adulthood is a significant and often challenging process. Among the myriad decisions teens must make, choosing a career path can be daunting. Michael Deffina’s guide, “So What Comes Next?“, serves as a beacon for teens embarking on this journey, providing valuable resources and insights into career exploration and life planning. This article delves into the key elements of Deffina’s guide, emphasizing the importance of life planning and offering additional resources for teen career exploration.

Understanding Career Exploration

Career exploration is the process through which individuals discover potential career paths, understand their interests and skills, and make informed decisions about their futures. For teens, this process is crucial as it sets the foundation for their professional and personal lives. Deffina’s guide outlines several steps to aid in this exploration:


Deffina emphasizes the importance of self-assessment as the first step in career exploration. Teens are encouraged to reflect on their interests, values, and strengths. Tools like personality assessments and interest inventories can provide valuable insights.

– Personality Assessments: These tools help individuals understand their inherent traits and how they might influence career choices. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator categorizes individuals into 16 personality types based on preferences in how they perceive the world and make decisions. Knowing whether one is introverted or extroverted, for instance, can help in choosing a work environment that suits one’s temperament.

– Interest Inventories: The Holland Code (RIASEC) is another valuable tool that helps match a person’s interests with potential career paths. It categorizes careers into six areas: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. By understanding where their interests lie, teens can focus their career exploration efforts on fields that align with their natural inclinations.

Researching Careers

Once teens have a clearer understanding of their interests and strengths, the next step is to research potential careers. Deffina suggests utilizing a variety of resources to gather comprehensive information about different professions.

– Occupational Outlook Handbook: Published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this resource provides detailed information on hundreds of occupations, including job duties, required education, and job outlook. It is an essential tool for understanding the realities of various careers.

– O*NET Online: This online database offers extensive details about job descriptions, skills, and requirements for a wide range of occupations. It also provides information on related careers, which can help teens explore different but related fields.

– CareerOneStop: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this website offers a wealth of information on career exploration, training, and jobs. It includes resources like self-assessment tools, career videos, and job search tips.

Gaining Experience

Practical experience is essential for understanding the day-to-day realities of different careers. Deffina advocates for internships, job shadowing, and volunteer work as ways for teens to gain hands-on experience. These opportunities allow teens to explore different fields, build skills, and make professional connections.

– Internships: These provide real-world experience in a professional setting. Internships can be found through school programs, job boards, or by directly contacting companies in fields of interest.

– Job Shadowing: This involves observing a professional in their work environment to get a sense of their daily tasks and responsibilities. Job shadowing can provide valuable insights and help teens decide if a particular career is a good fit for them.

– Volunteer Work: Volunteering not only helps build skills but also provides opportunities to explore different career fields. It can be particularly beneficial for teens interested in non-profit or community-based careers.

 Seeking Guidance

Mentorship and guidance from professionals, teachers, and career counselors can provide valuable perspectives and advice. Deffina encourages teens to seek out mentors who can offer insights into their chosen fields and help them navigate their career paths.

– Mentors: Finding a mentor in a chosen field can provide teens with first-hand insights and advice. Mentors can help with networking, skill development, and career planning.

– Career Counselors: Many schools offer career counseling services where professionals can provide personalized advice, resources, and support for teens navigating their career paths.

The Importance of Life Planning

Life planning goes beyond career exploration; it involves setting long-term goals and creating a roadmap to achieve them. Deffina underscores the significance of life planning in ensuring a balanced and fulfilling life. Here are some key components:

Setting Goals

Goal setting is a fundamental aspect of life planning. Teens should set both short-term and long-term goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). This process helps them stay focused and motivated.

– Short-Term Goals: These are objectives that can be achieved in the near future, such as completing a certification course or gaining a certain level of proficiency in a skill. They serve as stepping stones towards larger ambitions.

– Long-Term Goals: These encompass broader aspirations like obtaining a degree, entering a specific career, or achieving a significant personal milestone. Long-term goals require sustained effort and planning.

Developing Skills

Continuous skill development is crucial for adapting to changing job markets and achieving personal growth. Deffina highlights the importance of lifelong learning and encourages teens to seek opportunities for education and training.

– Formal Education: This includes pursuing degrees, certifications, or diplomas in fields of interest. Formal education provides foundational knowledge and credentials that are often required for career advancement.

– Informal Learning: Online courses, workshops, and self-study are excellent ways to develop new skills. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses on a wide range of subjects.

Financial Planning

Understanding financial management is essential for achieving life goals. Deffina’s guide includes basic financial planning tips, such as budgeting, saving, and understanding credit. Teens who learn these skills early are better prepared to manage their finances in adulthood.

– Budgeting: Creating a budget helps teens track their income and expenses, ensuring they live within their means and save for future goals.

– Saving: Establishing a savings plan is crucial for financial security. Teens should learn to save a portion of their income regularly.

– Understanding Credit: Knowing how to use credit responsibly is important for financial health. This includes understanding interest rates, credit scores, and the long-term impact of debt.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

A fulfilling career should not come at the expense of personal well-being. Deffina stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Teens should prioritize self-care, hobbies, and relationships alongside their career aspirations.

– Self-Care: Engaging in activities that promote physical and mental health is crucial. This can include exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

– Time Management: Learning to manage time effectively helps teens balance their responsibilities and make time for relaxation and personal interests.

Comparing Career and Life Plaaning Guides: “So What Comes Next?” vs. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens”

Resources like So What Comes Next? provide a much-needed framework for personal discovery and strategic life and career planning, empowering the next generation to navigate their transitions confidently. 

In contrast to “Sean Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,'” which spans 244 pages of broad advice without offering specific tools for creating tailored success plans, “So What Comes Next?” is a more concise guide at just 42 pages. Its focus on brevity and relevance makes it more likely to positively impact teenagers, helping them navigate their journey with confidence and purpose. 

“So What Comes Next?” includes downloadable programs that help readers develop specific, personalized plans, effectively addressing individual needs and goals. As importantly, it is written in a tone that is user friendly to teens, thereby encouraging them to follow through in developing and following their plan.

Author Insights

Author Michael Deffina shares his motivation for writing “So What Comes Next?”:  “During my tenure at IBM, I presented after-hours programs for high school students, where I encountered many talented yet underprivileged youths. These experiences highlighted the lack of essential resources and guidance available to them, despite their potential. Motivated by the transformative power of mentorship and tailored advice, I authored ‘So What Comes Next?’ This book serves as both a guide and mentor in book form, designed to provide a comprehensive, personalized toolkit for all young adults, especially those who feel marginalized, helping them forge a successful and fulfilling life.”

Additional Resources for Teen Career Exploration

In addition to Deffina’s guide, several other resources can aid teens in their career exploration journey:

Books and Guides

– “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey: This book provides practical advice and strategies for personal and professional development, aligning well with Deffina’s emphasis on self-assessment and goal setting.

– “What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens” by Carol Christen and Richard N. Bolles: A comprehensive guide that helps teens discover their passions and plan their careers. It includes exercises and tips for identifying interests and setting career goals.

Career Counseling Services

Many schools and community organizations offer career counseling services. Career counselors can provide personalized advice, resources, and support for teens navigating their career paths. These services can include one-on-one counseling, career assessments


Michael Deffina’s guide, So What Comes Next? is an invaluable resource for teens embarking on the journey of career exploration and life planning. By emphasizing self-assessment, research, practical experience, and guidance, Deffina equips teens with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their futures. Coupled with a focus on life planning, these strategies ensure that teens are prepared not only for their careers but for a balanced and fulfilling life. By exploring these resources and integrating Deffina’s insights, teens can confidently navigate their career paths and plan for a successful future.

Published by: Holy Minoza

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