Gaining Experience

If you’re looking for a way to get experience doing something you enjoy or something that may help you in college or your career, consider attending a summer program or getting a summer job during high school.

High School

Summer programs

You can attend a student summer program as a participant, and there are many options to choose from, including volunteering work, mentoring, and studying abroad. There are many resources online to help you search for a summer youth program to attend.

Another option might be to get a job at a summer youth program or camp. These organizations often look for younger counselors or staff members to help out.

Summer job

A lot of teenagers who are anxious to earn extra cash spend their summers in retail or food service since those jobs are plentiful. If you’re flipping burgers or helping customers find a special outfit, you might think the only thing you’re getting out of the job is a paycheck. Think again. You will be amazed to discover that this type of summer job can provide a rich experience just as a summer program would.

Being employed in these fields will teach you how to get along with demanding (and sometimes downright unpleasant) customers, how to work on a team, and how to handle money and order supplies. Not only do summer jobs teach you life skills, but they also offer ways to explore potential careers. What’s more, when you apply to college or for a full-time job after high school graduation, the experience will look good on your application.

Sometimes, summer jobs become the very thing you want to do later in life. Before committing to a college major, summer jobs give you the opportunity to try out many directions. Find out where your interests are and build on what is natural for you. Activities you take for granted provide clues to what you are good at. The environments you prefer provide other hints, too.

Getting a summer job while in high school is the first step in a long line of work experiences to come. And the more experience you have, the better you’ll be at getting jobs all your life.

College

Gaining some experience before embarking on a full-time job search gives you more credibility and demonstrates your commitment to the field. It is also a great way to transition into the nonacademic world and gain some experience for your résumé. Also, getting some experience in the field or organization you want to work in is the only way to find a job from the inside.

Although most graduate students are extremely busy, there are many ways to gain experience that might be conducive to your schedule.

Part-Time Employment or Internship

An internship is probably the best way to gain experience with an organization. An internship is a short-term work experience that often occurs during the summer, but can also be done part-time during the academic year. Internships provide the intern with the opportunity to “test-drive” a particular field and simultaneously gain valuable work experience. The process used to find an internship is similar to the process involved in finding a full-time job, so this is a good opportunity to develop those skills. Any experience you can gain is valuable, so take advantage of these opportunities, learn as much as you can, and make as many contacts as possible.

Job Shadowing

If you are unable to spare the time or locate an internship, shadowing someone in the workplace can be extremely valuable. Job shadowing is similar to an extended version of an informational interview, and can range in length from a couple of hours to several days. The advantage to shadowing is that you really get to see what a typical day is like for someone in a particular field or organization, and it will provide you with topics of discussion in a potential job interview.

Volunteer Work

Volunteering for a non-profit organization can not only benefit society and be personally satisfying, it can also be an important method of networking, developing skills, and gaining experience.

But before you volunteer, ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have to commit?
  • Do I want an ongoing regularly scheduled assignment, a short-term assignment, or a one-time assignment?
  • Am I willing to participate in a training course?
  • What talents or skills can I offer?
  • What would I most like to learn by volunteering?
  • What don’t I want to do as a volunteer?
  • Do I want to work alone or with a group?
  • With what kind of people do I want to work – both in terms of who is receiving my services and who my coworkers might be?

Check out these sites to get started:

Mississipppi Commission on Volunteer Services
SERVEnet
Network for Good
Idealist.org
VolunteerMatch
Do Something

Here are resources and things to consider:

Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) - MDES provides information and services to help job seekers and labor market information.

CareerOneStop - CareerOneStop offers extensive information about jobs in Mississippi, including:

  • Fastest-growing occupations (overall in MS and for various levels of education)
  • Occupations with the most openings (overall in MS and for various levels of education)
  • Occupations with the largest employment (overall in MS and for various levels of education)
  • Occupations with declining employment (overall in MS and for various levels of education)
  • Highest-paying occupations (overall in MS and for various levels of education)

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