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Career Advice for Your Soon-To-Be High School Grad

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The journey from the first day of Kindergarten to the last day of high school may take nearly 13 years. But that journey goes by at lightning speed. Suddenly, your kiddo isn’t such a kid anymore.

Here’s the thing, though: You’re still a parent and you want to give advice. Only the advice your child needs isn’t how to deal with the monsters under the bed. It’s how to navigate the path of finding an occupation they will love—or at least not loathe.

So what kind of wisdom can you impart so your teen joins the 83% of people who are at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs? Try passing along these nuggets in snackable doses between summer get-togethers.

1. Encourage the art of planning ahead.

As a working mom, my life is spent around planning. I plan meals. I plan schedules. I plan breaks. Young adults can benefit from getting on the planning bandwagon early and often, too.

If your child hasn’t decided on a college yet, resist the urge to do all the planning when it comes to visiting potential campuses. Instead, put the responsibility on your teenager to do some legwork like setting up appointments with advisors. Remind your child to write down questions ahead of any tours. This is a great skill to practice, as it comes in handy during job interviews. Walking into an interview armed with questions shows interest and intelligence.

Your teen may be baffled at where to start but there are lots of online resources to help—so don’t jump in to save the day. For instance, High Point University offers a college tour checklist with valuable “springboard” questions that promote critical thinking as well as thoughtful planning.

2. Talk about social networking for business.

The vast majority of kids are active on at least one social platform like Snapchat or TikTok. However, doing weird challenges and taking selfies doesn’t do much to impress employers. With that being said, companies do use LinkedIn. In other words, there’s no reason that a recent senior in high school can’t have a LinkedIn page.

Will an 18-year-old have much of a LinkedIn profile? Not unless your kid has been a Shark Tank entrepreneur since middle school. A thin LinkedIn account is still a LinkedIn account, though. They can add education and special interest fields, not to mention a personal statement.

Now, most teens aren’t overly familiar with the way LinkedIn works. You’ll probably have to offer up a little homeschooling education on how to use the platform. For example, you may have to explain why a polished-looking photo is the way to go. You can also help your student navigate LinkedIn to find networks and possibly future employers.

3. Explain that a first job doesn’t have to be perfect.

Kids sometimes get it in their heads that their first “real” job out of high school has to matter. Truth is, it doesn’t. Yes, it would be nice if your teen who wants to be an accountant could snag a job at a local financial firm. It probably won’t happen, however, which is okay.

Children need to realize that all the jobs they have in their lives can offer insights. Even working at a retailer or restaurant builds experience and character. Additionally, it allows young people to begin forming an idea of what type of work they enjoy and don’t enjoy.

At the end of the day, we all have lousy jobs that become our go-to “let me tell you about an awful boss” stories. It’s a rite of passage. Most of us move on and move to pastures that seem even greener after having gone through the mud.

4. Go above and beyond the call of duty.

When I was younger, I worked in an office administrative position. Very soon, I realized that doing just a little more than everyone else would make me stand out. I started taking on a few more tasks than my peers. I got praised by my supervisors and received opportunities to advance.

It was surprisingly easy to stand out, I discovered. All I had to do was think above my pay grade. Rather than seeing myself as “just” an administrator, I tried to be an asset. It worked. Though I didn’t stay with that company, I appreciated my days there.

Kids are taught to toe the line when they’re in school. As a result, they can be hesitant to do more than they think they should. Let your teen know that it’s okay to be proactive. Many employers reward managerial behaviors with managerial-level offers.

Full disclosure: Your high school graduate may not be fully invested in getting career advice from you. That’s okay. Use your magical parenting powers to sneak occupational tips into conversations and situations when you can. Then, sit back and watch with pride as the kid who once couldn’t ride a bike masterfully navigates the bridge between kid-dom and early adulthood.

Image credit: Rodnea; Pexels

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