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Career Counsel 101: Advice to High School Graduates               

For High School Seniors across America and the world, this time of season is one of euphoria, sadness, and reflection all in one.  It is a euphoric time because you feel the rush of energy and excitement from going from a teenager to being a young adult.  Your high school tenure is coming to an end and you are about to celebrate yourself, and your accomplishments, through prom, yearbook signings, and graduation ceremonies.  Some sadness may kick in as you realize that your high school days are over and you come to the realization that some of your teachers were pushing you not because they did not like you, but because they were trying to prepare you for a world that is complex, heartless, and very fluid.  And, you will reflect on the experiences in high school that made you who you are today.  Whether it be your first love, the high school bully that you managed to outlive and not let break your spirit, the difficult teacher whose class you survived, or the fantastic bonds and interactions that you had with people, you will realize that this environment that you have traversed for 4 years is now over.

But, as you go off and discover your new, and greatly larger, world, I would like to offer you some unsolicited advice during this graduation season.  As a person who has gone through this phase of life many decades ago, and whose transition into adulthood was filled with trial and error, I offer you this bit of information to hopefully assist you in prospering both professionally and financially.

Find yourself

Some young adults know what they want to do when they exit high school, and some young adults do not. Take the time to figure out who you are, what you are passionate about, and what you are good at doing. Are you good at analyzing situations, public speaking, helping others resolve their differences, building things, welding, making art? These are things that you need to find out about yourself. Find out your mental strengths, academic strengths, and your dexterous abilities. If any of these align with your passions, then try turning that passion into a career. But, if none of these align with your passion, then pursue your abilities as a means to support yourself over your passion, while you maintain your passion as a hobby.

Not everyone can turn their passions into a career, but if you can, then go for it.

Take your craft seriously

Whether you are going to a trade school, university, or jumping immediately into the workforce, you must take your craft seriously. Put 100% effort into your studies or trade because others, not only at the same institution you are at but throughout the globe, will be putting in just as much effort as you will be, if not more. No one can predict the future and how the job outlook will pan out, but you can prepare yourself by being the best in your class. If you are at an academic institution, make certain that you come out at the top half, if not the top, of your class. If you are in a trade school, make sure you learn more, and can perform the trade better, than any other person in your school. And, if you jump straight into the workforce, ensure you learn and perform your job functions better than any other person fulfilling a similar role. Moreover, try to shadow others within the organization that can help you broaden your knowledge of the organizational processes and skills needed to perform them.

Take risks

Most young adults exiting high school do not have many commitments. Most do not have children, spouses, mortgages, rent, car loans, and the like to keep them restricted from pursuing personal and professional passions. Some of the aforesaid obligations tend to make people hesitant to take professional risks as debt, personal relationships, and dependents tend to decrease one’s willingness to damage their credit score or put added financial pressure on their partner or children.

But youth is the perfect time to take risks. Most young people graduating from high school still have the support of their parents or guardians. If you are going to college, take that time in school to try your business concept. Businesses take years to become profitable, and starting while at your college campus gives you a chance to take your business vision from an idea to a proof of concept. As a student, you will have access to thousands of other young individuals that can give you feedback on your idea. You can take that feedback and perfect your product or service, or pivot to another idea. Also, young people are more socially active and engaged than older people. Older people get married, have children, settle into jobs, and tend to lose the connections they had when they were younger. However, younger people are all about meeting new people, hanging out and having life experiences. By tapping into this market while in college, you can create a bigger buzz around your business as young people tend to use the power of social media to promote brands, friends, and experiences. Look at all of the people that made a name for themselves while in their youth. Sean Combs started at my alma mater, Howard University, as a party promoter. From his efforts in college, he landed an internship with Andre Harrell and, ultimately, launched the very successful Bad Boy record label. Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin launched Def Jam records from Rick Rubin’s New York University dorm room. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, a multi-billion dollar company, from his dorm room at Harvard. Seth Berkowitz started Insomnia Cookies from his dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania.

Although all of these individuals are impressive, I am especially impressed by Minnesota college student Jayson Gonzalez. Seeing a lack of availability of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, Jayson would drive 4 hours to Iowa to pick up Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then drive back to Minnesota and sell the doughnuts at a markup. Krispy Kreme would issue him a cease and desist notice, but got bad publicity for doing so. Ultimately, Krispy Kreme entered into a partnership agreement with Jayson Gonzalez. But, his entrepreneurial spirit and risk taken in college may lead to a high probability that when he exits college, he can take his business venture to the next level.

Whether you go to college or not, taking risks early is important to future success. Sometimes, it takes an entrepreneur several “failures” to finally hit success with one venture. Sometimes, those setbacks come at a financial cost. It is best to have these setbacks before the familial, parental, and financial commitments come about.

Never stop learning

Although your high school years may be done, and you may never step foot back into another classroom, your learning should never stop. Read books, specifically on financial wellbeing or on books that can help you in your trade. Read books to help you grow spiritually and personally as well. Spend more time looking at constructive material online over mundane and entertaining material. And, periodically enroll in classes that can help you learn and grow in these areas as well.

Learning is continual. A person that ceases to learn and grow will ultimately get left behind as the world continues to evolve and change.

Congratulations, graduates. May you have much success in the next phase of your life.

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