Tips for Teens: Six Ways to Gain Career Experience This Summer


Summer break, for many teenagers, conjures up thoughts of sandy beaches, county fairs, backyard barbecues and sleeping till noon dancing in their heads. But hold that thought – summer is also a valuable time to start getting career experience in a field you are interested in.

This summer, explore some activities that will give you a taste of life after high school and college. Love animals? Volunteer at an animal shelter or apply for a part-time job at a veterinarian’s office. Is physical fitness your passion? Try working at a gym or job-shadowing a physical therapist. Interested in writing or TV news? See if your local news station or newspaper will let you do an unpaid internship.

“Start by asking yourself what you are good at, what you love to do and how you can be most helpful,” says Denise Winston, a professional speaker and owner of a financial education firm, Money Starts Here, in Bakersfield, Calif. “Then find something in that field. If you love to shoot video, offer to make a video for a local business or nonprofit to post on their Facebook page. If you love to draw, try a local art center or graphic design studio.”

Winston offers these six additional tips for gaining career experience this summer:

1. Put together a resume. It puts you a step ahead of people who only apply for jobs online.

“Do inventory of all your skills, awards, certificates, positions held, funds raised and volunteer work done,” Winston says. “A resume puts all your accomplishments on one paper and can really boost your self-esteem.”

2. Create a “Good Stuff Folder.”

“As you gain experience, certifications and recognitions, place the certificate or something to help you remember the accomplishment in your Good Stuff Folder,” Winston says. “That way, the next time you do a resume or have a job or college interview, you’ll have specific things to talk or write about.”

3. Identify possible references. What people do you already know? Longtime friends, your parents’ co-workers, teachers, counselors and church members are all possibilities.

“Ask around if anyone could use some free help in return for a letter of recommendation or reference,” Winston says.

4. Dress and act the part you want, not the part you have. Think about how successful people in the field you desire dress and act, and find ways to imitate them.

5. Do a strategic job search. It could be part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid, job or internship. The point is to gain experience doing something you love.

6. Make a difference in your community. Nothing catches the eye of a college admissions officer or employer like a teenager who has already made the world a better place.

“Volunteer doing something you are passionate about – the military, the elderly, the homeless,” Winston says. “Create your own movement or project with friends or schoolmates to support a common cause.”

– Jessica Mozo