If you’re a secondary school student right now, you’re actually in a fantastic place in your life. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. And right now is a fantastic time to begin thinking about your future and to make some preliminary preparations; just keep in mind that things can always change.
Remember that the average person is expected to change occupations, not just jobs, more than five times throughout their lifetime, according to experts.
Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you begin to consider one or more possible school and career routes.
- Spend some time reflecting on your interests and dreaming about potential careers.
There are so many various employment and career options available in a wide range of industries, and there are also brand-new career routes that are just beginning to take shape.
Even if you are quite certain of your job decision, spend some time in high school researching related or even completely unrelated careers. Look into all of your choices. Take a few career evaluation tests and consider your preferences.
What job, if any, would you take on right this second? Please explain. Don’t allow anything stop you from pursuing your ideal career.
Take the time to review your career and do some professional exploration to broaden your view of possible majors and job choices, for instance.
- In secondary school, challenge yourself but don’t overburden yourself.
Make the most of your secondary school experience. Take the rigorous and challenging schedule of classes when you can; you’ll learn more – and it will appear good to the college admissions department.
Obviously, you must remain focused on achieving good grades, but do not overburden your calendar – or yourself – to the point that you become ill or exhausted. Include at least one enjoyable course in your timetable.
For example, if you have a passion for photography, find a way to schedule a photography course alongside your other more difficult college-prep classes.
- Work, volunteer, or obtain other experience.
As with your schooling, the more you are exposed to, the more possibilities you will have while looking for a job.
There are even more internship options for high school students. Seek career and volunteer opportunities both inside and outside of school. Work experience also looks excellent on college applications – as well as future job applications and resumes.
Another advantage of working in a paid position: spending money! Remember that school and grades must come first, so only work if you can balance your schedule and manage your time well.
For example, if you want to be a journalist, start writing for your school newspaper and hunt for a part-time work at a local newspaper.
4. Get as much education as you can.
Many vocations and careers now necessitate more education or training beyond secondary school. Some jobs may demand a graduate degree to work in the area.
Take advantage of any educational chances that present themselves to you, such as summer educational opportunities and educational travels overseas. If financially possible – and there are numerous ways to help – attend college; college graduates earn far more than high-school grads.
Consider a summer math enrichment program if you have a passion for science or math rather than spending your summer at the community pool.
5. Discuss careers and colleges with as many adults as possible.
The greatest approach to learning about alternative jobs is to question others – family, neighbors, friends, teachers, and counselors – about their work and college experiences.
If you haven’t already done so, start building a network of people who know you and are eager to help you with your educational and career goals. And, for jobs that pique your interest, consider asking each person if you might shadow him or her at work.
You might also conduct informational interviews alongside the shadowing, or as a less intrusive approach of learning more about jobs and occupations.
For example, if you are interested in becoming a college history professor and have a passion for history, call a local college and ask one or more history professors if you can shadow them or perform an informational interview.
6. Keep in mind that everyone must forge their own path in life.
Spending too much time worrying about what other people in your high school are doing – or allowing their thoughts about your hopes and ambitions to influence your decision – is a bad idea.
Don’t worry if you graduate high school with no obvious job route; that’s part of the point of college: learning who you are and what you want to accomplish with your life. Everyone develops/matures/grows at their own rate, so don’t feel obligated to make a decision right away. But don’t let the fact that you have lots of time to make a decision keep you from starting to learn about and investigate potential job options!
For example, many institutions have specific “exploration” programs for first-year students who have no idea what degrees or vocations they want to pursue. These programs expose you to a wide range of classes, activities, and speakers in order to guide you down the path of career exploration.
7. People evolve; don’t feel obligated to attend college or pursue a career right now.
It’s nice to have a perfect life plan but remember that things happen, and your goals may need to change… so have an open mind – and your options open.
Some of your friends, or even you, may already know or believe you know, what you want to do with your life. If so, that’s terrific; but, don’t become so focused on it that you miss out on other interesting options. There are professional avenues that haven’t even begun yet that might be huge in five or more years.
For example, one of my college students, whose parents are both lawyers, is certain that his destiny is to be a corporate attorney, and his present plans include law school after completing his undergraduate studies. He is, however, pursuing a full set of business classes as well as some interesting electives in case “things change” before he graduates.
8. Don’t let anyone control your dreams and ambitions.
If you allow a parent or other family member to influence your degree or job, you will be extremely unhappy at best.
Students frequently feel pressure to follow in the footsteps of an adult family member’s job path, especially if s/he is footing the cost for college, but choosing a career to please someone else is the worst thing you can do.
For example, one of my former students hailed from “a family of accountants,” and everyone was expected to join the family CPA company. The trouble was that she had no talent for numbers and despised accounting, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell her family. The world did not end when she eventually admitted her disdain, and her parents actually encouraged her to pursue her love.
9. It is never too early or too late to start organizing and establishing plans.
Whatever stage of high school you are in, now is the time to plan the rest of your high school years as well as your goals after high school.
Investigate your post-secondary alternatives, such as technical schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. Begin or continue your study for the numerous standardized tests (such as the SAT and ACT). Consider which teachers could be prepared to provide letters of recommendation for you and approach them when the time comes.
Finally, develop strategies to cover any gaps in your plans, such as improving your grades, taking more difficult classes, obtaining experience, or performing community service.
For example, many professors are overloaded with last-minute requests for letters of reference for college entrance, so the sooner you approach the teachers who can write the greatest recommendations for you, the better.
10. Never stop learning: read, grow, and broaden your horizons.
Don’t pass up fresh learning and experience possibilities. Many teachers provide or assign summer and additional reading lists; consider these chances for improvement rather than a burden on your summer. The more you read, the more you will understand. It’s an overused expression, but knowledge truly is power.
For example, one of my high school students was certain he wanted to be a teacher, but after learning about educational budget cuts and the decline in educational experiences in many parts of the country, he decided he would be better off as a political activist for educational reform than as a teacher trapped in what he saw as a decaying system.
Last Thoughts on Secondary School
Teens are in a period of transition as they enter maturity and the more grownup issues of jobs, careers, and college. It should be a time of both growth and difficulty. Have fun, but get the greatest education you can so you can take advantage of other educational chances. And remember, no matter where you go after high school, you should never stop studying and growing.