Ah, high school. Seven hours of sitting and taking in all you can for that diploma to set you on your way to new horizons.
Of course, you may have a great high school with opportunities to take part in the arts, advanced STEM, communications or a mix of disciplines. But even with with that, you may feel the need for something else to catapult you further in your career, or even just to spice up that high school resume.
I was a visual arts major during my four years of high school and took more than 11 classes in different disciplines to learn creative problem solving. I became skilled in graphic design, printmaking, textiles, sculpture, drawing, painting, and photography.
But even with those and academic subjects, I wanted to cultivate my skills in writing and leadership through my high school’s GSTA (Gay/ Straight/ Transgender Alliance). With that, I reached out and joined a national organization called GLSEN to advocate for safer schools for LGBTQ youth through national events and social media outreach through blogging and video making.
That opportunity led to creating merchandising for an event and finding mentors in my own community by creating an “Art & Identity” workshop series for LGBTQ youth and their supporters. All of a sudden, I found myself networking and furthering my skills for a career in design, all while I was doing what I loved: supporting LGBTQ+ youth!
I worked on projects with the local GLSEN Chapter in Kentucky (GLSEN Bluegrass) and The Fairness Campaign to advocate for safer policies in Kentucky schools. Along my path, I learned from so many incredible mentors. Accomplished activists, bloggers, speakers - you name it. While my career in landscape design doesn’t necessarily relate, I grew so much and brought my newfound professionalism and confidence into my work to pursue my career.
So what can you do to gain valuable experience and mentorship for your resume (and for life!)?
Consider what type of opportunity you need. Is it extra cash to boost your college savings? Go for a job or paid high school internship that relates to your interest rather than a volunteer position (Yes, some firms offer internships to high school students: Call!). Freelance work may be an option if you’re “crafty” like me. I ran a small business painting custom designs on canvas shoes for two years. With social media and sites like Etsy, you have opportunities to promote your work! Or, volunteer. While unpaid, it can lead to valuable networking in your community. My national volunteer work with GLSEN led me to scholarship resources for LGBTQ+ students, blogging for The Huffington Post, MTV News, and even here at Teenlife Media! (And your work won’t go unnoticed. College recommendation letters anyone?).
Consider what you like doing best and what sort of opportunities your community offers and your area’s special interests. My hometown of Louisville, Ky., is an amazing arts and “foodie” haven. This opens for opportunities for ushering at local theater venues, helping in after-school arts programs, or working with a unique and friendly food business (I worked at a really cool local ice cream shop!).
Start small if you have to. Discuss options with your teachers or school counselor, club sponsors, parents, or community members you admire.
You may be happily surprised at the references and experiences you can add to your resume and may more than you do sitting for seven hours in high school on a typical Tuesday. Get out there!