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More than a Lemonade Stand: Preparing your Student for the Pursuit of a Career With/ Without College

Several years ago when our oldest son was about six years old, being the ever-budding entrepreneur that he has always been, Nathan set up a lemonade stand at our family’s annual garage sale which was the way I would pay for the homeschool curriculum that we’d need for the following semester.

At the end of the first day, when his dad got home from work, Nathan ran to his dad holding the $8 in change he had earned at the lemonade stand. “Dad!” Nathan said, “I don’t even know why you go to work?! I made $8 today selling lemonade. Just set up a lemonade stand, Dad.” 

If only it were that easy for our young adult children to establish a career path that can sustain them as an adult. Then we wouldn’t fret about how we are going to propel these grown kids into their future careers. Stress is high because we as parents know that life is way more expensive than any lemonade stand! The launching of your young adult child once he has graduated from high school is an overwhelming season for both parent and student. Mapping out the plan can be a daunting task.

For 13 preparatory years of education this time seemed far off and exciting, but suddenly it arrives with both of you staring at the daunting challenge of making many life-altering decisions, not the least of which is the choice of whether or not to go to college or how best to move ahead with solid footing toward a career job.

In general, there are four “places” after high school for our students to head toward when seeking a career:



Trade/Skilled Work,

or entering the Military.

This article will look at nine categories of powerful steps that your student can take to be a standout candidate in his career field, regardless of formal post-high school education.

First, though, for those of you not interested in a philosophical essay on the subject, I’m going to give this quick reference list on which you and your student can focus. For more details about each of these items, read on into the nine steps. Also at the end of this article, you will find many additional resources to show to your student.

Quick Reference List of Post-Graduation Activities to Build Experience, a Professional Network, and a Strong Resume:

* College or Trade School Yes, this is the obvious step that everyone thinks of pursuing, but it is not the ONLY option nor is it always necessary, depending on the career field your student is considering.

*Apprenticeships/Internships/Job Shadowing/Career Mentorships These don’t have to be currently existing opportunities. Your student should brainstorm and research some places she would love to eventually work and then begin networking to create one or more of these opportunities at those businesses. Many executives are flattered to have someone “shadow” them for a day or a week and that can open doors for a mentorship, apprenticeship, or internship. My daughter did this with a veterinarian when she was 16 as she wanted to become a vet tech. Beginning with shadowing the veterinarian for a day, one step led to another and eventually resulted in a permanent position as a veterinarian technician at that clinic.

* Certifications Many certifications are offered free if you get them through on-the-job training so encourage your student toward full or part-time jobs in fields related to his long-term career goals. Another one of my daughters had various side jobs during her college years that built her cache of certifications for her resume. All of these were free to her because they were needed in her part-time jobs. These certifications made her much more marketable by her senior year of college, resulting in her being hired in a top-choice position. Of course, a graduate that isn’t attending college has even more time to hold multiple jobs that can add to his list of certifications. On a side note, employers are looking at the length of employment at each job. With that in mind, your student may want to reduce hours rather than end a job when he thinks it’s time to move on. For example, in addition to my oldest son’s full-time employment, he has retained a part-time job for about five years even though he now only works there a few hours a week. He hangs on to that very part-time position because longevity matters on a resume and because he values the personal and professional experiences it provides. If your student has proven himself to be an exceptional employee, an employer will often be quite flexible in doing what it takes to retain your graduate’s job even if your student needs to reduce to a minimal number of hours.

* Associations Associations, such as TYPros -Tulsa Youth Professionals,Organizations, and Professional Seminars Related to Desired Career Field Goals (The more memberships and affiliations the better. This will help expand not only your student’s understanding of that field, but will build her resume while simultaneously building her network of people in the field).