5 smart ways graduates can prepare for their careers
You’ve graduated high school! Congratulations, it is a terrific accomplishment. You are looking forward to a well-deserved restful summer which will lead you to the next big chapter of your life: college.
I know you feel like the first day of college is far off, but life has a way of accelerating as you get older, how you invest your summer can help you prepare for the right career.
Whether you are ready or not, the questions regarding your future will soon demand answers. Are you prepared to address them?
First, begin with the end in mind.
Would you go on vacation without knowing the destination? I wouldn’t recommend driving aimlessly and then when the car runs out of gas announce, “We’re here.” How would one prepare for a vacation like that — do you pack skis or a bathing suit?
So, too, when planning for a career, begin with the end in mind.
What you do this summer can help you see where you are going and prepare you for a more rewarding college career. Following these five steps will to make your summer productive and enjoyable, and give you a better chance at post-college success.
1. Don’t just get a summer job have an experience.
The difference between working a job and having an experience is how you approach them. Regardless of the job you have, make it an experience that challenges you and stretches you.
As an example, pay attention to what is going on around you and how you respond to interpersonal interactions. How do you respond when you are corrected, praised, offended, asked to lead, or asked to follow? Do you enjoy being in charge of a situation or group of people, or would you rather just blend in and be part of the crowd?
Answering each of these questions takes work and insight. These questions help illuminate the type of worker you are and the kind of environment in which you will thrive. Record your new found information and place it in a portfolio titled “me.”
2. Don’t just go through the motions.
Invest yourself in every experience you have this summer. Whether you are serving ice cream, pumping gas, or participating in an internship, every experience has valuable insights into the person you are.
Be invested; see each experience as a Christmas tree that has, amongst its boughs, a few key presents for you. You may need to search amongst the many boughs, but you will find your gifts waiting to be discovered.
Approach each experience as a possible treasure trove of gifts, do the hard work of being aware of the type of work you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. Pay attention to the pace, flow, environment, process, activity level, level of personal interactions that you find, each of these is a clue as to how who you are and how you are designed.
Trying new tasks, paying attention and stretching will all reward you with valuable information in the discovery process.
3. Don’t shelve it, delve it.
Each of your presents represents a gift, talent, or aptitude that you will want to unpack. Don’t be content to have discovered it and place it on a shelf — no, dig in.
If the present you have unwrapped is for example, being good with people spend some time thinking about the implications of this gift. In what type of career might this be valuable, how could you confirm or develop this gift? How do others who have this gift use it? How does this newly-discovered gift relate and enhance the other gifts and discoveries you have found?
You may be tempted to return to the same job you had last summer, but evaluate if that is the best use of your time. We know that time is money, so invest your time wisely.
I hope you are beginning to see the potential that each well-executed experience can hold. I want you to be jealous and greedy of squeezing every last drop of discovery from your experiences. With that mindset ask yourself this simple question: “What can I learn from this experience this summer that I didn’t already learn last summer?”
If the answer is “not much” or “nothing,” then find a new experience!
If you have found all of your presents under this tree, then go find another Christmas tree that holds the promise of helping you discover who you are and what makes you unique.
Summer jobs are not just about income — they are a golden opportunity to accelerate the discovery process which help shape the courses, major, and career track that best suit your gifts, talents, and aptitudes.
5. Piece it together.
If your assignment was to make a puzzle the first step would be to place the pieces on a table before you. What would happen if you only had fifty pieces for your hundred piece puzzle? I hope that before you started putting the puzzle together you would first try and locate as many missing pieces as possible.
The reward of making your summer experience all that it can be is the ability to gather valuable pieces. Each piece brings clarity to the big picture you are putting together. By doing the difficult work of gathering additional pieces your picture is going to take shape which will provide a confidence and a vision of which career track you were born to pursue.
When you choose to engage in an experience during the summer instead of just going through the motions of having a summer job, you will end your summer with a clearer picture and a better understanding of what makes you special and unique. As your picture takes shape, your decisions for classes, majors, and a career track will be more accurate and more exciting to you. Your confidence level will soar because you will be making career decisions based on real evidence that you have been gathering.
When you return to school, continue the discovery process and find new experiences which have gifts waiting to be discovered; open them, study them, and understand how they relate to the gifts and talents you have already discovered. Being intentional about the work and experiences you enter into will have you making better more educated decisions about your future. The big payoff will come in the closing years of your schooling because your interviews will be filled with the evidence you have been gathering through your experiences.
As a corporate recruiter, my easiest hires were those who understood their gifts and talents, those who had done a great job of discovering and assembling a near complete picture of who they were. Their picture included a myriad of experiences which is the necessary evidence recruiters will need in order to make a well-informed hiring decision.