Nate came rushing in the door as if someone were chasing him. He could hardly contain himself. There was a smile on his face from ear to ear.

He proudly exclaimed: “I got a job! I got a job and did it all on my own experience.”

This was definitely a different reaction from the last time he went looking for a job the summer before. Each prospective employer turned him down because he was too young or didn’t have any experience. That determined him to get the needed experience.

Nate had wanted to work in a sports store since he was 13 years old. Skiing was one of his hobbies, so he went after the experience required with enthusiasm. He read everything he could find about equipment. He went skiing as often as he could and talked to the pros about techniques, and listened to their personal experiences.

While in a sporting goods store buying a piece of ski equipment he struck up a conversation with the manager. The manager was impressed with Nate’s knowledge of the equipment and offered him an after-school job on the spot’ At 15, Nate’s experience paid off and fulfilled a teenager’s dream. He got a good job doing something he really enjoyed. Now he could start to save for college.

If we look at successful people, one thing they all have in common is experience – whether they gained this experience in extracurricular activities, as a volunteer or as a paid worker.

Successful people realize that big successes are built on smaller ones. So they go after opportunities, knowing that even the not-so-important ones can lead somewhere. They know that getting experience helps in preparing to get a good job.

A Positive Cycle

Career counselors tell us: “Experiences and interests are closely related to each other.”

Where does a person get his interests? He is not born with them. Our interests come from our experiences! When we do something well and enjoy it, we become interested in it. And the more interested, the better we do it! And the better we do it, the more we like it. And so on, in a positive cycle.

By finding a variety of meaningful experiences, we won’t have to worry about deciding right now exactly what to do in life. We can discover the things we enjoy doing and the things we’d rather not do. Of course, if you already have an idea of your career interests, you will want to seek opportunities that will give you experiences in those areas.

Consider the following examples. They aren’t meant to suggest that all activities must be in preparation for our future work. But they are markers to help us measure the future usefulness of some of our choices right now.

Experience is transferable

A young woman who belongs to a woman’s club learns how to be concise and to the point, how to research information, how to communicate effectively as a speaker, how to stand correctly and how to work as part of a team with a purpose. What she learns is transferable, because she can use these skills later in other opportunities.

A young man delivering papers will probably have to determine efficient routes for his delivery, handle money responsibly and even persuade customers to extend their subscription. The job has to be done, and people count on him to be there. These transferable opportunities will be useful later in life.

Serving as the captain of a team, the manager of a school band, the producer of a school radio or television station or a youth group leader gives us the opportunity and teaches us how to plan, organize, supervise and get things done. We discover the need for cooperating with others, reaching goals, touching bases with the right people and following up on details.

Whether we are applying for a job as a salesperson or a window washer, the employer will need to know that we are punctual, don’t waste time and can be counted on to work hard even if given boring tasks.

Part-time and summer jobs, volunteer experiences and extracurricular activities all give us chances to gain and demonstrate these habits and attitudes. It’s not that someone who hasn’t done these things doesn’t have good work habits. He or she just hasn’t demonstrated them. And that increases the risk for a future employer – a risk the employer may not want to take.

Many times employers use the term track record. This means that Joe or Sue has shown what he or she can do. Employers want to know: Can he or she be trusted? Can he or she be responsible for money or programs or facilities or for people?

For example, working as a summer camp counselor gives us the responsibility for the safety and experiences of the camper. We are confronted with problems and have opportunities to show how we handle them. We demonstrate our creative ideas for programs. Some work, others won’t. In fact, handling responsibility gives you a sense of what works and what doesn’t. This is one of the reasons employers think so highly of good old comman sense.

Even so-called grunt work – low-level , meaningless jobs – can benefit us if we are in a position to rub shoulders (and minds) with profess ional people. You have the chance to see them in action and think, I’d like to do that someday. Being around people who do a job gives us a picture of how that job really works.

Go after experiences. Pursue opportunities. If we wait for someone to ask us, or if we wait for something to fall into our lap, we might do a lot of waiting. Millions of gallons of potential have evaporated while waiting for “later” or “someday” or “when I have more time.”

Don’t let another day or summer go by. Start now – get some experience.

“How do I get a job requiring experience when I don’t have any?” you may ask.

The answer can be simple: Look for low-rung jobs that will give you experience. Sales jobs are a good place to start.

You may be able to find work in a store that corresponds with your interests. If you love sports, your enthusiasm in a low paying position in a sporting goods store could lead to a better job with more responsibility and higher salary. If you like to work outdoors, your hard work as a ditch digger for a landscape contractor could lead to a position as a crew chief or as manager of your own landscape company.

You don’t have to be an employee. Two high schoolers I know became florists with a small plot of land lent to them. If you start your own business, remember to check on laws that would apply to you (perhaps call city hall).

You might benefit from the following suggestions.

Establish a business: dog walking, car polishing, yard cleaning, house sitting, delivering for stores and restaurants.

Volunteer to work at a senior citizens’ center.

Take responsibility for the operation of the house (shopping, cleaning, cooking) to get to know how it is done.

Learn how to care for and service the family car, possibly taking a summer course in auto mechanics.

Learn photography or how to use a personal computer.

Take a home repair course.

Learn a foreign language.

And, if you can’t find a job, volunteer. It’s a valuable way to get experience. Develop contacts and references and skills for future use. Then, the next time you go looking, your resume will have more than your name and phone number on it!

Dextre Faulkiner ‘Youth’

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