Career planning tips from a teen – Guest post by Tara Iyer, A diligent teenager who is eager to start her career planning on the right foot!

As a kid, I never used to volunteer much – prior to the eighth grade, the only things I remember having ever done to give my community a helping hand were donating old clothes to Goodwill, and sometimes a can or two to the food bank. In fact, even when I first started volunteering to earn community service hours for school, I never, out of the goodness of my heart, went out of the way to feed the homeless or pick up trash along the freeway. In many ways, I was a typical busy middle schooler – I was too preoccupied with other things to give more thought than my grade depended on to helping others. This all changed, though, a few weeks into the school year when I realized that by volunteering I wasn’t just assisting the people around me – I was also helping myself. In the process of reaching out to others, I could explore different employment fields, and build up my resume. Volunteering, I decided, was another easy and effective way for me to start planning my career.

Where to Start?

Since volunteering in most fields doesn’t require much (if any) background knowledge, it’s a great way to learn more about jobs you know absolutely nothing about.

By immersing yourself in an environment related to a specific area of interest, you can observe others and find out more information about a career. I used my former elementary school as an outlet to begin exploring teaching; since I already knew enough about music to have begun tutoring some students, this was a good subject for me to start out with.

Start small and plan big:
I touched bases with a kindergarten teacher, and came in once a week to hold half hour music classes with her students. Before and after my sessions I received the opportunity to watch how she conducted her class, and she gave me tips about how to keep the students’ attention and help them understand what I was teaching. By spending just thirty minutes a week observing a teacher and holding a class, I was able to learn firsthand the requirements of a teaching career.

Find your interest:
Of course, the type of volunteering I performed isn’t right for everyone; while I was on my own and had to make all of the arrangements myself, there are many companies and organizations that let you sign up to take part predetermined work areas. Museums and hospitals are often good places to start looking, and will probably offer positions such a guide (museums) or a junior auxiliary (hospitals). Most of the time, you’ll be asked to fill out a volunteer application form, especially if there are a lot of people vying for a set number of spots. If you want to learn more about the job before you apply for it, ask about informational meetings.

Communication is the key!

Whichever method of volunteering you decide to get involved in, you’re going to have to learn how to communicate with other people. Most importantly, almost all volunteer work centers around working with the people in your community: if you work with an organization, you’ll probably be asked to talk to others, explain things, and help paid workers with simple tasks; and if, as in my case, you initiate your own program, you will need to communicate with others and gain support for your idea before you can put it into effect.

However, if you really want to use the experience as a starting point to exploring the career it is associated with, you also have to know how to ask questions of more experienced workers:

  • Can they show/tell you more about their specific jobs?
  • Is there any way you can learn more about a certain topic while you are volunteering?
  • Would they take the time to teach you a little more?


Don’t be shy to ask for help

From my own experience, most of the adults you interact with will be happy to assist. In addition, being able to interact with the people around you is an important skill to build in preparation for job interviews and real life work in any field: volunteering can be instrumental in helping you build the confidence to do so.

Volunteering is a great way to explore practically any field. Whether or not you have any prior knowledge in the area you choose to become involved in, you can gain the opportunity of learning more by observing and interacting with experienced employees, and immersing yourself in different job atmospheres. In this way, you’ll not only gain a well rounded view of every field you spend time working in, but you’ll also build confidence communicating with the people around you.

By the end, you’ll realize, as I did, that volunteering doesn’t always have to be overlooked as a waste of valuable time – instead, it can be a starting place for you to explore careers.




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What has been you experience at volunteering and has it helped you find the work you love?