6 Life & Career Tips for High School Graduates

Congratulations to the class of 2022! Entering adulthood is an exciting time, whether you plan to head off to college, start your career, join the military, go on a volunteer assignment or choose a different path to pursue.

As you embark on this new chapter in your life, here are five career and life tips that can help you achieve whatever professional or personal objectives you have. Now’s the time to consider what matters most to you in life. These strategies can help. 

1. Find a Mentor

A mentor is someone you look up to, who can help guide you as you navigate new and challenging situations in the world. At this time in your life, a mentor could help you if you’re comparing school options or majors to pursue. Mentors can also introduce you to new connections and job opportunities. They can provide career advice and insights based on their own experiences.

A mentor could be:

  • A teacher you want to keep in contact with
  • A current or former boss
  • Someone you’re connected to in your personal life who has a job or life path that interests you

As we suggest in “How to Get the Most Out of Your Mentorship,” when you’ve identified someone you’re interested in having as a mentor, reach out to them about the kind of help you’re looking for. Maybe you’d like to meet with them once a month for coffee, or you’d like to be able to email them with questions whenever you have them. 

Make an effort to learn about your mentor’s career journey, education and training. Ask them what advice and career tips they’d have for someone in similar shoes.

Talk with your mentor openly about what you’re going through. Listen and take notes during your conversations so you can reflect back on their advice.

Show gratitude to your mentor as they share their time and insights with you. Continue to build new mentor relationships as you take on new jobs. As National Mentoring Day points out, employees who are mentored are promoted five times more frequently compared to employees who don’t have mentors. 

2. Explore New Interests

Don’t worry if you’re not sure which career path to take after high school. You’re not alone. According to a 2021 report by the University of Bridgeport:

  • Between 20% to 50% of college students enter school with undecided majors.
  • Up to 75% of college students report they’ve changed their major at least once. 

You have lots of options for what to study, including many educational programs beyond a 4-year degree.

Use our Education Search tool to see schools and programs that relate to different jobs, industries and education types. There are thousands of certificate programs that give you something to add to your resume for a fraction of the time commitment compared to a 4-year school. You can add to your credentials, boost your resume and see what types of topics relate to your strengths before committing to a more in-depth program or career.

There are other ways to gain a better understanding of what you want to pursue in your career or life. You can:

  • Take classes for fun, like at a yoga studio, comedy club or local theater
  • Volunteer, which can help you network and learn new skills
  • Get a part-time job, which helps you narrow down the types of tasks you want to work on and enables you to make money and build relationships in the process

If you’re going to college, you can join clubs on campus to learn more about what your interests might be. You never know what you might be passionate about until you try it.

3. Create a Budget

Money management can help set you up for long-term financial success. A budget is a plan for how you’ll spend and save money you earn. Budgeting can help you avoid debt and gain control over your finances.

One popular budgeting method, according to Experian, is the 50/30/20 rule. It looks like this:

  • Allocate 50% of your monthly after-tax income to necessities, like tuition, housing and food.
  • Allocate 30% or less of your monthly after-tax income to non-essential expenses, like saving for a vacation.
  • Allocate the rest of what’s left (at least 20% of your monthly after-tax income) to savings. This can include both an emergency fund and investments, like in a 401(k) or IRA plan. Aim to save at least 6 months’ worth of your income in your emergency fund.

When you stick to your budget, you’ll avoid charging expenses that you can’t truly afford. You can also save toward long-term goals, like purchasing a home or buying a new car. 

There are tons of free apps that will help you create a budget for your income. Your bank might have its own budgeting tool, or check out the free Mint app to segment spending by category and monitor your savings targets. 

4. Set Goals

There are lots of psychological benefits of goal setting. According to PositivePsychology, setting goals can help you:

  • Introduce new positive behaviors into your life
  • Guide your focus and actions
  • Maintain momentum toward achievements
  • Increase your confidence and promote a sense of self-mastery

Your goals may change over time, and that’s OK. Having them in the moment gives you action steps to take to make positive gains in life. 

We recommend setting SMART goals. What are SMART goals? They’re:

  • Specific: Choose a goal that states what exactly you want to accomplish and what specific steps you need to take to get there.
  • Measurable: Your goal should have a clearly defined objective. How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? Determine the measurement method you’ll use.
  • Achievable: Select a goal that’s realistic for you to achieve. If you have major aspirations, that’s great. Break down a major goal into smaller ones, so you can focus on one goal achievement at a time that will lead you on the path toward achieving your big dream. 
  • Relevant: Your goal should support your big-picture objectives. Think about the why behind your goal to make sure it aligns with the journey you want to take. 
  • Time-bound: When do you want to achieve your goal? Set a deadline so you stay focused. Break down your goal into manageable chunks so you can achieve it by a specific day.

Let’s look at how Sara, a freshman college student, can apply the SMART approach to her goal to get an internship by next summer, before she starts her sophomore year. 

  • Specific: Sara’s goal is to have an internship lined up to begin the summer after completing her freshman year of college.
  • Measurable: Sara will know she’s achieved her goal when she receives an offer for an internship. 
  • Achievable: Internships are common for college students. Sara knows as long as she’s applying for internships that relate to her major and career goals, she will be considered.
  • Relevant: Sara wants an internship because it will enable her to network with industry professionals and add the experience to her resume, which will help set her up for success once she graduates.
  • Time-bound: Sara plans to secure an internship within a month before her spring semester ends.

Throughout the year, Sara might choose classes and coursework that relate to the internship she’s interested in. She might volunteer or take on a part-time job that relates to the internship field. She might reach out to professors for leads on internship opportunities. She might find a mentor who can provide her with advice throughout the year. 

Sara writes down her SMART goal so she’s constantly aware of it. By the time internship opportunities become available, she’ll be prepared to apply. 

Not sure which goals you should pursue? Check out our career exploration tool to see what might interest you. 

5. Be Open to Opportunities

Each time you say “yes” to an opportunity, that can impact your career and life path. You may meet new people who end up being mentors or valuable contacts. You could gain a new skill or experience that benefits your resume. You may find you’re interested in a whole other career that’s different from what you originally considered. 

Keep an open mind for whatever comes your way. You can start researching what you might be a fit for by taking our interest assessment. This 5-minute survey will show you careers you might excel in. From there, you can research educational programs, work-based experiences and jobs that are available. 

It can also be helpful to create a LinkedIn profile, since nearly 90% of recruiters use the professional social network to find talent. With a complete LinkedIn profile, you might be approached to consider open job positions. You can also network with others, which could lead to future career opportunities.

6. Build a Resume

Speaking of new opportunities, when they come around, put yourself in the best position possible with an updated resume. As we covered in our resume tips blog, make sure your resume is:

  • Optimized with keywords related to your ideal career and industry, so that applicant tracking systems and recruiters can find yours when they search
  • Complete, with accurate contact information, summary statement, core competencies, education, professional experience, certifications, technical skills, volunteerism and awards
  • Free of spelling and grammar errors and repetitive wording

You can use your resume to guide your LinkedIn profile creation. You can also upload your resume to a personal website or your LinkedIn profile. 

Network, Learn, Put Yourself Out There

The future’s looking bright for where your career path can take you. Pipeline AZ is here to help with Arizona career resources, including hiring events and job boards. Take a career assessment to see which options you might want to explore.  

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