Teens: Preparing for a Career Starts Now
Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on August 30, 2017 at 10:00 am
Waiting until high school graduation to choose a career was easier in the past because the basic skills needed for most careers were much the same. With advancements in technology, students need to begin specializing earlier if they want to excel in their chosen field.
Teens as young as 13 can begin investigating and preparing for a career, but a recent report shows that fewer teens are taking advantage of traditional preparatory options such as taking a summer job or a part-time job during the school year. In July 1978, the teen labor force participation was at about 72%, but in July 2016 it was at only about 43%.
In some cases, this is because more students enrolled in summer school. In July 2016 about 42% of teens were enrolled in summer academic programs, while that number was only about 10 percent in 1985. Even with the increased attendance of academic programs, there is a lot of room for teens to better prepare for their careers.
Assessing potential careers
Elizabeth Venturini, a college career strategist, suggested teens take the time to learn more about themselves as a first step. She recommended career assessments as a great starting point.
“A career planning tool, such as an interests assessment, helps students learn about their interests, likes, dislikes, values, work, and learning style.”
This type of assessment gives them a real starting point from which to launch their career exploration efforts.
From there she recommended visiting nearby college career centers. Not only can it give students an idea of the types of careers which are possible with the various degrees offered from the school but it may give them insight into careers within their general field of interest which they may not have considered previously.
This is an important step for teens who are closer to making a decision about their college choices, too. The career center will give teens powerful insight into the quality of help they will receive with finding a job during their college career and upon graduation.
Real world experience
Making the time to work alongside a busy high school schedule can be challenging but it is worth the effort.
Resume strategist Joni Holderman point out, “There’s a huge value in trying a career and learning it’s not right for you!” As an example, she mentioned volunteering at a hospital and learning that medicine was not the best fit could save thousands of dollars and years of schooling.
If schedules preclude volunteering and interning prior to college, teens could spend time talking to professionals in various fields. Craig E. Ullom, founder of NextPath Learning, suggested conducting informational interviews.
“These short interviews can be arranged by leveraging one’s network of family and friends. Generate some questions, make a visit, take notes, and reflect on what is learned from the interview.”
This can be especially valuable for teens who are having difficulty narrowing down their field of interest.
Networking and building a portfolio
The experts we consulted also pointed out it was never too early to begin building a portfolio or resume and to network within the field.
Venturini suggested building an online presence on platforms such as LinkedIn. Teens can begin by adding the following.
- Personal information such as name and email.
- Academic accomplishments, particularly for AP, IB, or honors classes.
- Real-world experience such as volunteer work, part-time jobs, and internships.
- Accomplishments and skills such as handling money, computer proficiencies, and customer service.
Networking opportunities should begin as soon as teens begin to develop specific interests. Venturini recommended explaining networking to teens by saying, “Networking is based on building a relationship and a lot of giving.”
Encourage teens to offer their assistance to teachers, administrators, coaches, tutors, parents of their friends, co-workers of parents, clubs, and organizations. These are all people who may be able to offer future career guidance.
In addition to preparing for their careers while they are in high school, teens may also want to consider a gap year. It’s important to have a good idea of what they want to work towards before they begin their college career, and by including these activities throughout their teen years, they will be more fully prepared to make the best decisions to help them achieve their academic and career goals.