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by Abigail Van Buren

Young Man Stuck in Neutral Must Grab the Wheel and Go

DEAR ABBY: Nineteen-year-old "Hopeless in Chandler, Ariz." (May 21), said he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. When I was his age, I didn't know what I wanted to do, either. I didn't want to go to college, the military didn't interest me, and nothing I could think of seemed appealing.

My parents had factory jobs -- Dad in quality control and Mom in assembly. They talked me into filling out an application at the plant. I did so grudgingly, and was hired. I figured I'd stay one or two years and then find something I liked better.

This September I'll have worked there 32 years. I have survived layoffs and reorganizations, a move to another town and the sale of the product line I started on. I consider the job I'm doing now to be my dream job, and I enjoy going to work every day.

My advice to "Hopeless" is to try something he may think he won't like, give it a chance, and see how he feels in a couple of years. He may be surprised by what he discovers. -- HAPPY AND SATISFIED IN OHIO

DEAR HAPPY: Great advice! It never hurts to give something a try before deciding you don't like it. Read on for more suggestions:

DEAR ABBY: I would encourage "Hopeless" to take college transfer courses at a community college. This often leads to finding an interest. Volunteer and/or get a part-time job. If nothing else, those experiences can eliminate some fields of endeavor or spark an interest in something he has not yet considered. -- VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION COUNSELOR IN MURPHY, N.C.

DEAR ABBY: "Hopeless" should sign with a temp agency. I worked as a temp during my college breaks and was introduced to various office settings, technologies and career opportunities. One summer's temporary placement -- answering phones and doing clerical work -- led to a higher-level position the following summer after graduation. I took it and couldn't have been happier.

"Hopeless" shouldn't wait for others to tell him what he should do -- he should just get out there and do it! If nothing else, he may discover what he does NOT want to do and can direct his college course accordingly. -- BARBARA IN KATY, TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: Life is what happens while you're busy making plans. "Hopeless" should choose something he enjoys doing, do it well and enjoy the experience. Most important, he should stick with it until he's sure a change is needed. Career planning works for some, but for most people life has a funny way of taking us down roads we never saw coming. -- "DOC" IN LOS OSOS, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago I never would have thought of becoming a professional organizer, but that's what I am now. This is not a career that appears in any career counselor's tests, but I'm sure you wouldn't find many unusual careers in a book or test. I advise "Hopeless" to join volunteer groups and ask friends if they need help with anything. He may discover an aptitude for something he wasn't aware he possessed. -- JAN IN CARLSBAD, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: There are hundreds of jobs that provide a good living -- plumber, electrician, bricklayer, construction worker, appliance repairman, stonemason. The list goes on. These are jobs that keep the world spinning and keep us in the comforts we enjoy.

If "Hopeless" doesn't know what he wants, he might consider taking a year to work with AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity. If he uses his imagination, he can make a difference in the world. -- KEEPING IT REAL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

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