What Can I Do to Prepare for My Future Career?

Thursday, September 01, 2022
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While the average high school student might have no idea what they want to do with their life, you are ready to take some initiative.  Good for you!

Rise to the Top with Internships

Internships are the best way to gain first-hand experience with a potential career.  The Intern Readiness Certificate Program (IRCP) at NSHSS helps students prepare for a successful transition to the professional world.

NSHSS also works with many excellent partners in the nonprofit and educational fields, as well as the corporate and government sectors – all great leads for internships.

Consider Volunteering to Gain Experience

Volunteering is a perfect way to gain exposure to different types of workplaces, and it looks stellar on college applications.  

When it comes to work, all experience is good experience – even volunteer placements.

Be Prepared for Change

According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker changes careers 5.7 times between ages 18 and 24.   While ideally you’ll find a great career fit right out of school (especially because you’re already thinking about these decisions now), you can always change careers.  In fact, the statistics suggest that you probably will -- more than once!

The job market is always changing.  The 2020 pandemic caused a massive, unpredictable re-structuring of the American workplace with the widespread adoption of remote employment.  This is a relatively new paradigm for all industries, and we’ll all have to wait to see what the long-term impacts are.

One interesting manifestation of this shift is that there are an increasing number of online internships.  These might be worth a look.

Ask Adults About Their Jobs

You can – and should – research careers that interest you.  Maybe you want to work in tech, or be a physician or attorney.  The actual day-do-day experience of various professions is not something you’ll get from reading industry profiles.  

One of the best things you can do for your future career is to get in the habit of asking adults about their job.   Ask them what they like about their job, and what they would improve.  Also ask them what their first job was.  Most adults will be happy to share their work experience with a high school student just about to enter the working world.

Become a Self-Promoter

If you’re hesitant about talking to working adults, this is actually a good opportunity to learn a crucial, un-written career skill:  advocating for yourself.   School is basically “handed” to you, but work requires that you get out there and demonstrate your competencies to others.  

Self-promotion is a skill that can be learned, and practice is the only way to get better.  Any activity that requires public speaking (debate, theater, student council, etc.) is good training.  Before any job interview (or college interview), it’s always a good idea to practice your self-presentation with a mock interview.

Take Career Diagnostics with a Grain of Salt

There are lots of self-diagnostic career tests in which you answer a bunch of questions and get a report that tells you that your ideal job is something ultra-specific, like “underwater welder” or a “herpetologist” (snake expert).

The self-inventory involved in these tests is indeed valuable – it’s great to identify your strengths and interests.  But there’s no fortune cookie that will magically tell you exactly what you will be when you grow up.  Take these diagnostics with a grain of salt.

Learn Work-Related Applications

Virtually every future career will rely on some core software – applications like Salesforce, Wordpress, Quickbooks, LexisNexis, et al.  While many employers provide on-the-job software training, it’s also common for candidates to be required to already have some experience with software.  

If you have the opportunity to gain exposure to these types of workplace-standard apps, by all means, seize it! take it! 

Get to Know Your Teachers

You should cultivate a positive relationship with at least two teachers that can help you with letters of recommendation for your college applications.  These letters can also be used for job searches, internships, summer programs, etc. 

Get Out There and Work!

One of the most important things that you can do now is get paid to work a few hours per week.  This will help you cultivate a work ethic:  the discipline and show-up-and-get-it-done attitude of a good employee.

Here are some ideas for part-time jobs.  Even getting paid by a neighbor to water their plants counts as a job.  

Breathe Easy

Thinking about potential future careers should be a positive experience, not a stressful one.  You’ve started early, so you’re ahead of the game.   

If you follow up on some of the suggestions in this article, you will already be taking active steps to develop work experience.  When it comes to applying for those first jobs, that experience will often be what lands you your first solid job.