By Elisabeth Neale
If you’re in high school, or even starting further study, you might be frustrated.
Why? Not because school eats into your social time, or because you’re stressed or bored. Sure, those things might frustrate you, but I bet there’s something else that makes you even more annoyed: you’re stuck at school, and you can’t start your career yet.
If you have high hopes for a fabulous, fulfilling job, you might be finding that the monotony of secondary or tertiary study is wearing you down, and making you feel like you’re never going to get anywhere with your dreams. But did you know that there are plenty of opportunities to actually start your career now? You don’t have to wait till you’re qualified – gaining experience can start whenever you’re keen and ready.
While in high school, I felt frustrated often that my dreams of becoming a writer had to be put on hold until I was qualified. But as someone pointed out to me, this isn’t actually the case. Sure, I couldn’t be the editor of TIME Magazine when I was fifteen, but I could start getting involved in writing and the media.
The first thing I did, and you can try too, is getting some short-term work experience. Many schools run their own work experience program, where students are encouraged to find a placement for a week (usually in Year 10) in a workplace in the field in which they are interested. I went to a small but popular independent magazine for a week, and really enjoyed being able to conduct interviews, write articles and book reviews and see how the magazine worked. If you’re interested in being a teacher, see if you can spend some time in a school. If you want to become a fashion designer, contact people who work in the fashion industries. My two main tips for these are to utilise your contacts (who might just be your parents or other family members!) and try small businesses/workplaces, as they are more likely to say yes to short-term work experience. If your school runs a work experience program, don’t just stop at that – keep trying to get work experience right throughout school and uni! I went to The Sydney Morning Herald in Year 12, and that really helped as I tried to break into my career.
The second thing you can do is get a casual or part-time job that’s related to the field you want to work in. Obviously if you want to work in food or fashion, this will be easier for you as cafes, restaurants and clothes shops frequently hire unqualified students, but that’s not to say someone who wanted to be a lawyer or an engineer couldn’t just as easily try to get a job related to these fields. If you want to be a lawyer, some law firms hire students to do filing, which might not sound interesting, but would still be related to your career, and look great on your resume. Other big companies such as engineering firms and IT companies also sometimes hire young people to help out around the office. You might be getting coffee or doing hours of photocopying, but at least you’d be there. I got a job working in the media department of a mission organisation, which though not totally related to my dream job as a features writer, was still relevant to my broader media goals.
The third thing you can do is put yourself out there and create your own opportunities. This is particularly relevant for those who want to work in the arts, such as aspiring journalists, musicians, artists and writers. It’s never too early to start trying to get your work publicised. If you’re interested in writing or radio, why not send your work to Hitz247! If you’re the next Adele, record some songs, create a demo CD and send it out, and seek out every opportunity to perform. If you want to be an artist, create artwork for your friends and family and ask them to display it, and tell their friends where they got the work. And if you’re an author, write that novel and send it to a publisher. I did, when I was 14, and my children’s novel was nearly accepted for publication! Chances are, putting yourself out there will take a lot of time, there may be setbacks and you’re unlikely to earn much money, if any, but in the end it will be worth it.
So in summary: unpaid, short-term work experience, paid work related to your dream career and creating your own opportunities. If you follow these steps, I can bet you’ll be on your way to getting a great start in whatever career you might be dreaming about right now.