What is neuroscience? And, why is it important for career decision making?

May 01, 2023

Try asking a teenager about what they plan to do when they leave school and you may be met with a grunt or a groan.  Why is that?  And, what can you do to help your child with planning their career path?

A teen’s brain can be overwhelmed by career choices

As teenagers get closer to finishing high school, many of them become overwhelmed about their future.  Questions surrounding their careers may be met with frustration and avoidance.  Selecting a career can be one of life’s most challenging decisions.  Teens often feel confused by the amount of information they need to absorb when considering the numerous career paths.

High school students can wrestle with career decisions well into their senior years and beyond.   Those who try to decide on their future career by enrolling in tertiary education can also face the same difficulty in decision making once they start their undergraduate course as they realise future job opportunities may not be related to the subjects they selected.

Making a decision about a career path can be daunting and confusing

One of the reasons behind the difficulty many children experience when contemplating their future is the maturity of their brain.   Researchers have found that the development of the adolescent brain may contribute to the anxiety and uncertainty in career decisions.

The development of the human brain in teenagers

A major reorganization of the human brain occurs around adolescence and continues beyond young adulthood into the thirties.   During adolescence, there is an imbalance between the Limbic System, which develops early in life, and the Prefrontal Cortex, which matures later in life.   This imbalance can be demonstrated by a teenager’s emotional, reactive and risky behaviour.  The adolescent brain is also susceptible to environmental influences, as well as the volatile hormones of puberty.

The study of the brain

Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system with the main focus being the brain. The brain is very complex and neuroscience implies that our brain has three main parts:

  • the Brain Stem (controls motor function)
  • the Limbic System (the emotional engine room)
  • the Prefrontal Cortex (executive function skills)

The Limbic System

The Limbic System is the oldest part of the brain.  It is over 400 million years older than the neocortex.    Its purpose it to ensure our survival.   This is where all our basic instincts live.

The Limbic System rejects sacrifice as it is predominately fixated on short term reward and instant gratification.  Self-centred, it lacks patience and the ability to analyse.  With no capacity for language, it is visual and highly reactive.    It is the part of the brain that processes emotions and is responsible for risky behaviour.

The Prefrontal Cortex
The Prefrontal Cortex is the rational part of the human brain.  It corresponds with analytical thought and language.    It is responsible for important executive function skills such as the ability to pay attention, to remember details, to decipher information, to plan ahead and ultimately to make appropriate decisions.

The Prefrontal Cortex undergoes significant neurological changes from adolescence through to young adulthood.  As a child matures, they have more control over their Limbic System which results in becoming more rational and better able to communicate.

How can your child tap into their Prefrontal Cortex?

As your child matures, you can help them develop the rational part of their brain by encouraging them to:

  • become more aware of their emotions
  • identify all the facts
  • use mindfulness and meditation
  • operate less on autopilot
  • become more purposeful in their actions.

Understand your child’s default preferences and biases with Neuroscience 

As genetics and experience interact to shape the brain, each person’s brain is unique.   We all have a collection of different abilities and one person may find one academic subject difficult and yet enjoy and do well in another.  By using neuroscience, you are able to understand your child’s default preferences and biases.

Research recognizes that each person has a complex profile of preferences – likes and dislikes.   Some students do well in some subjects, but less well in others because these differences are grounded in individual differences in the brain.

Our genetic predisposition interacts with learning experiences to give rise to a wide range of individual differences.  We are born with certain genetic tendencies.  As we interact with the world around us these experiences can reinforce or counteract our generic inclinations.

Neuroscience and the neuroplasticity of the brain

Neuroscience has uncovered that the human brain has evolved to be able to learn and to be taught.  The neuroplasticity of the brain means that it can adapt to the environment where you live, study and work.

Research does not support the simplistic notion that each student is either intelligent or not; rather it recognises that each person has a complex profile of strengths and limitations.   One thing, however is certain:  all brains demonstrate plasticity.  Our learning difficulties in a subject should not, therefore, be perceived as unchangeable.  But rather as challenges to overcome for us because our brains can change and improve through learning.

Map out your teen’s career using neuroscience not personality tests

As the brain is very complex, teenagers and young adults cannot be pigeonholed into personality types to determine suitable careers.

PRISM Career Mapping is a proven solution using neuroscience to understand what makes your child tick so they are better able to make better career decisions.  It is a quick and easy online questionnaire with no right or wrong answers.  There are no labels and no scores.  This innovative online tool takes advantage of some of the most up-to-date scientific discoveries to provide your child with a series of maps that represent how they respond to the world.

With powerful, graphic explanations why your child approaches certain situations in the way they do, these maps illustrate natural and instinctive behaviour preferences as well as the way in which behavioural preferences are modified for certain situations.    These maps also give insights into where your child may be overdoing or not making full use of their potential.

Neuroscience to match your child with study and career pathways

PRISM Career Mapping gives you a detailed report about your child including a schema of brain functioning with colours to illustrate behavioural preferences.    This report measures the intensity of your child’s expressed preferences for a range of behaviours and it accurately identifies their natural strengths and interests.

Your child will be matched with study and career pathways most suited to them and you will also receive a database of over 900 careers. With this detailed information, based on neuroscience and not just a personality test, your child will gain self-awareness and the clarity to confidently map out their future and choose the right career for them.


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