Whether you’re still in high school, just graduated, or are years removed, starting your first career can be an exciting and scary experience. You want to do well and you want to love what you do, but how can you set yourself up for success? Check out our top 6 things you need to know before starting your career, and how you can get a jump on them while you’re still in high school. Then be sure to take our quiz below to see how you’re doing in learning and establishing these critical skills.
Critical Thinking Is Essential
You’ve probably heard your teachers talk about the importance of critical thinking, and you can see how it’s important in the science classroom or when faced with a challenging math problem. But you may have wondered if it’s actually important in the real world and if the critical thinking skills you’re learning in high school will even apply once you’re engrossed in your first career. The short answer is a big, giant “Yes!” Employers want people who are innovative and creative, who can think outside the box and work outside the confines of what is normal or standard. Essentially, they want problem solvers. They want people who can look at a seemingly impossible problem and come up with a solution. They want people who can think logically but creatively to analyze and interpret an issue, and then create a resolution to fix the issue. Critical thinking is all about looking at something with a new perspective and moving forward in that perspective with confidence and conviction.
Communication Is Key
It’s probably pretty easy to talk to your friends, and you may even find it stress-free to interact with your teachers. But how would you handle meeting face to face with the president of the university you want to go to? How would you handle an interaction with someone who doesn’t understand what you’re asking him or her to do? Communication can be challenging in today’s world, not because we’re lacking in methods of communication, but because the ways in which we communicate are so informal and technology-centered. How would you text a boss to tell them you’re sick? Certainly not the same way you’d text a friend to talk about hanging out this weekend. Can you form a properly written sentence, like one that would be in a professional email, with all the correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling? Do you find it easy to get your ideas across to new people or is it challenging for you to explain yourself or express your thoughts? Good communication is key in the real world. You need to know how to respond appropriately to certain situations, interact with those above and below you in your career, and write a professional-sounding email, text, or memo.
Professionalism Is a Must
It’s usually easy for young people to identify a lack of professionalism, but many recent graduates can struggle with defining professionalism. At its core, professionalism is acting like a responsible and mature adult. It’s about being on time, looking the part, speaking with respect, and doing your job well. It’s about taking your responsibilities seriously and meeting deadlines, all the while treating others with respect and handling any issues in a mature and adult-like manner. Professionalism has to do with respecting the authority placed above you and being kind and equally respectful to your subordinates.
Teamwork Is Vital
Even if your job is primarily a one-man show, you are almost guaranteed to have to participate in some level of collaboration at some point in your career. You absolutely must be able to work well with others and contribute well to a team effort while not overshadowing any other team members. Even when you’re working with individuals who are hard to get along with, in any professional environment, you’ll be expected to treat others with respect and work with your team to accomplish a particular goal. While getting excited about teamwork can be challenging for introverts or those who simply prefer to work alone, it is a vital part of any job and you need to be prepared to work with others respectfully to create a mutually beneficial environment that is able to achieve success.
Teachability Is Crucial
High school students often assume that once they graduate, their educational days are over. That’s simply not the case, however. Employers are looking for individuals who are willing and excited to be lifelong learners. Even if you have secondary and post-secondary education and several years’ worth of experience, you need to be prepared to take continuing education courses, learn new skills, adapt to using new software, and so on. All industries evolve constantly, and especially as technological advances are booming and making their way into just about every part of every field, you need to be as teachable as possible in order to land that first job and thrive in your chosen career. One of the most important components of teachability is not acting like or assuming that you know everything. Understand that everyone in the world can teach you something, and be open to suggestions, ideas, and new lessons, even from the most unsuspecting people or things.
Self-Management Is Non-Negotiable
No employer wants an employee that they have to babysit. It doesn’t matter if you’re flipping burgers or working for a Fortune 500 company. You need to be able to manage your own responsibilities and not be micromanaged. This includes having the self-discipline to work hard when you should be, having the time management to get things done and meet deadlines, and taking responsibility for yourself in all situations. It’s about prioritizing, organizing, and following through. This skill is incredibly challenging for some to master, while for others, it comes quite naturally. If you’re a self-starter and have little to no motivation problems, you’re probably great at self-management. However, most people have to train themselves to improve their self-management skills over time, so the sooner you start doing this, the better prepared you’ll be when it comes time to start your first career.
How An Apprenticeship Can Help You Improve All These Skills and More
Most high schools will touch on all of these skills, and students who attend a virtual school during middle school and high school are far more likely to acquire these skills than students at traditional schools. However, you want firsthand experience in your chosen career field to get a leg up, and you also want to be sure you’ve got a good grasp on each of these skills so that you can walk into your first job prepared to be absolutely amazing. One of the best ways to get real-world skills and be as prepared as possible for your first career is to complete an apprenticeship during high school. Here are a few ways an apprenticeship will help you be best prepared for the start of your first job.
You’ll Have a Mentor
Having a mentor can be absolutely life-changing in a number of ways, but one primary way is through career preparation. When you’re doing an apprenticeship, you won’t be watched like a hawk to where you have no opportunity to learn, but you’ll be helped along by an expert in the field. They can help you avoid costly mistakes, understand more efficient ways of doing things, and even improve personal skills that are vital to your success as an employee.
You’ll Start Making an Impact Now
High school students sometimes struggle to feel significant. They’re not quite adults but no longer kids, and they can look for satisfaction and fulfillment in a variety of areas, only to be left disappointed. Not only will students find fulfillment and satisfaction by completing an apprenticeship at an early age, but they will also be able to begin making an impact on their industry of choice sooner rather than later. This can include bringing innovative ideas to the table as well as making a good impression on some experts in the field. Building these important skills and displaying them at a young age will set you apart from your peers in a huge way, and you’ll have an even greater opportunity waiting for you after graduation when you make a positive impact in a career field you hope to work in.
You’ll Learn So Much
Simply put, when you take on an apprenticeship, you’re going to learn so much. Not only will your academic knowledge increase, but your personal and professional skills will be strengthened and you’ll get a great deal of workplace experience that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You’ll learn about all the important things listed above that are crucial to your success in starting your first career, and you’ll gain tangible skills that you can utilize in a job after you graduate.