Life Skills

Life After Education

Yes, it feels like they just got here. But what’s next? It’s really important for students to think ahead to what comes after they complete their education, because the real world will be here before they know it.

Even though it feels like they just started high school (and remember kindergarten?!), helping them think beyond their education now is important for two reasons: 1) The end of their studies is coming; and 2) Having goals for after graduation can help them stay motivated when times get tough. A plan for what’s next can help them stay the course.

Here are a few conversations to have now over dinner or coffee:


What does your child see themselves doing after they earn their degree or certification? Some kids already know what they want to do when they’re still in high school. Others might not know yet, and that’s okay too—but we want them thinking about it. Do you know anyone working in a field your child is interested in? Can they talk to that person? Or visit them on the job? This doesn’t have to be someone in your family: It could be your local librarian, your veterinarian, or their favorite high school teacher. Your child’s college will also have a career services office that will offer great job and internship opportunities, interview prep, connections to alumni, and more. They can also help students figure out what majors and careers might be a good fit for their interests.


How are they using their summers? Are there paid opportunities to work in a field that will give them experience toward their professional goals? A student who’s interested in teaching might consider working at a summer camp. One who wants to go into healthcare could look for opportunities to answer the phones at a doctor’s office. If those kinds of jobs aren’t available, take a look at scholarship opportunities that can help cover the cost of low paying or unpaid internships. Your child’s college might have funding available for summer internships, too, especially if they already receive financial aid. And summer can also be a good time to take courses for credit if your child is interested in shaving time off their college experience (and check out these tips on how to get financial aid for summer courses).


If your child is enrolled at a community college or associate’s program, do they plan to transfer to a four-year institution? If not, they have even less time to start thinking about what comes next, so planning for their first post-college job is extra important. (Skip ahead to the next paragraph!) If so, what steps do they need to take to make it happen, and when? They should be able to transfer their existing credits so they don’t start from square one in a four-year program. But it’s important to make sure all those credits are transferable in advance, so your student doesn’t end up having to repeat coursework—which adds up in cost, and sets them up for higher risk of dropping out.


How will they find their first real job? Once they’re finished with their education or training, where are there opportunities to break into the profession of their choice? Do people working in their field use particular job-seeking websites or other sources for networking? What do they need to get those jobs? If they haven’t already, your child should connect with professionals already working in their field of choice. Taking “informational meetings,” where there’s no expectation of a formal job interview, can be really helpful: Your child will learn more about the types of jobs they might consider, and build a relationship with a professional who might be able to help them get a foot in the door.


Do they know how to make a resume and prepare for a job interview? You don’t have to be the person who shows your child how to create their first resume. Nudging them toward their college’s career office is a great place to start. They can also find free starter resume templates (and some helpful tips) on the internet. For most students, their first resume should highlight whatever job experience they already have, their academic qualifications, and skills they’ve gained that will be useful in their field of choice. Does your child know how to type quickly? Use computer programs like Microsoft Word or Excel? Do they speak a language other than English? Those are all useful skills that belong on their first resume.

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