It may seem like until you get experience, you’ll never be hired for anything. The common paradox is that you can’t get experience until someone hires you. There are, in fact, many ways to gain experience for the future while you’re still young.
Read Critically and Expansively
One of the easiest ways to prepare for the adult world is to read as much as possible. Through other people’s lives and experiences in both fiction and non-fiction, you gain insight into human nature and different lives you’ll never lead. Read so that you will be well read. Read so that you will understand allusions made by others. Read the nonfiction works of Dr. Gundry MD or Malcom Gladwell or Christopher McDougall to expand your knowledge about ideas and form opinions of your own.
Listen to Your Elders
Yes, older people sometimes repeat their stories, and, yes, sometimes they are slow to get to the point, but 80-year-old brains contain decades of wisdom that you are, well, decades away from achieving yourself. You may imagine that older people could not possibly understand your problems, but even though the names and dates may have changed, human problems have essentially stayed the same for hundreds of years. You may be surprised to discover that some old-school wisdom like “your word is your bond” and “say please and thank you” can actually take you pretty far in the modern world.
If you have a chance to go someplace new and try something new, take it. You never know what you might learn on the journey or gain from the destination. You might see a bald eagle, learn how to change a flat tire, or discover your waitress grew up next door to the guy who runs the company you just applied for a job at. The world is interconnected, so get outside and see some of it before you’re tied down to a career with only ten vacation days a year.
Learn a Another Language
The older you get, the more difficult it is to learn a second language. When you were three, you probably didn’t think twice about singing songs in Spanish, French, German or Chinese. The older you got, however, the more uncomfortable you became at making mistakes. It’s human nature. Fight against it and keep learning. Become as fluent as you can in school, and then if possible, take a semester abroad or sign up for a volunteer trip to solidify what you know. Sometimes knowing a second language can leapfrog you right over the more experienced competition when you are ready to look for a job.
Volunteer on the Weekends
You may be too young for the job you want, so take this time to volunteer on the weekends or over the summer. Find an organization that will let you do the kind of work you’re interested in such as helping animals, tutoring or computer work and treat it like a real job. Show up on time. Be polite to your fellow volunteers. Don’t shirk menial work. Before you know it, you will probably be given greater responsibility. When it’s time to apply for jobs that pay, you will have references who will speak glowingly about your work ethic and can-do attitude.
Keep a Journal
It may be difficult to understand how keeping a journal when you’re young will help you when you’re older, other than aiding your recall when you write your “before I was famous” memoir. But a journal is a great way to reflect on what you learn and what you still don’t understand about life. It’s a place to write sage advice from others, lists of things you may never do again, and dreams for the future. It’s your past in the rearview mirror and also your future out the front window.
You won’t know exactly which event or skill you learn while you’re young that will help you in the future, but the more you pack into your elastic brain, the better prepared you’ll be. Don’t assume that just because you don’t have the job of your dreams that you’re not gaining experience.
BIO: Brett Clawson has a degree in Business Management and has started a couple of small businesses. When he’s not focusing his time on those, he spends time with his wife and two sons. His oldest son has entered the wonderful realm of college, and he now enjoys sharing tips that he and his son have found essential for college life.