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Life after high school

Help your child decide what's next

After 12 long years of hard work and studying, high school graduation is finally here. After the caps and gowns come off and the diplomas are hung on the wall, the next step for many young adults is college — but that's not the only option.
High school graduation

There are many graduating seniors who remain undecided and are unsure what the future holds — or what to do next.

Contributed by Patrick Bet-David

For parents whose children aren’t sure what they are doing after graduation, do not fear. There are many options to choose from, and most of the time these choices will help your son or daughter figure out what comes next. Even more encouraging, all of these options bring valuable learning experiences that will enhance your child’s resume when looking for a job.

The military

The military is one of the best options for the undecided because it teaches discipline, independence and teamwork, responsibility, camaraderie, honor and leadership skills that can be applied to almost anything in life. Plus, as many human resource professionals and hiring managers will tell you, employers look favorably on job candidates with military experience. In fact, it can make the difference between two job candidates with similar experience. Thanks to my military service, a hiring manager at Morgan Stanley hired me without a degree, even though a four-year degree is normally mandatory with the company.

Travel

A trip to the beaches of Cancun to celebrate high school graduation is not going to teach your child much or provide them with valuable knowledge. Take some time to go see the world, learn about different cultures and see how other people live and do business. Spending time overseas will broaden and mature you, and employers are impressed when they see this on a resume because it shows real world experience in a foreign environment. This is the perfect time to experience a new country before more real life responsibilities hold you back.

Master your trade

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said that pursuing a plumbing career might be a better choice than going to Harvard. To his point, if you have a special talent or skill that solves a problem that people are willing to pay for, master it and let it make you rich. Plumbing, construction and working on cars are all great examples of important careers that despite the latest advances in technology will always be in high demand.

Volunteer

If you’re undecided about what you want to do, seek several volunteer opportunities in various fields to learn more about these industries. Real life exposure like this will help you decide which direction you want to go, and companies will always welcome the free help. Volunteer work of any kind also looks good on a resume.

Start a business

It's very common for 18 or 19 year olds to have an idea and turn it into a successful business. Imagine how many kids didn't because they were influenced to take the traditional route of college despite aspirations of starting a business. Parents should always encourage their kids to think entrepreneurial.

Get into sales

A sales position in almost any industry is valuable experience that will pay off later on. It teaches important people and communication skills, and most importantly a job in sales teaches people to think on their feet and work around objection. It’s a great foundation for many opportunities down the road.

Find a mentor

The key is to find someone you trust, and who is already very successful at what you want to accomplish. Talk to them, discuss different options and try to get some clarity, direction or first steps to take. Everyone needs a wingman at times, and there’s no shame is asking for a little guidance.

Build relationships

Regardless of what you want to do after high school, don’t forget about face-to-face relationships. Attend in-person networking events, invite the CEO of a company for a cup of coffee and get to know as many different people in as many different fields as possible. You never know who might be able to help you or who you’ll be able to help. Key relationships with the right people can open many different doors. If your child decides college is not for him or her and is still confused about what comes next after high school graduation, list out all of the potential options that are available and choose some to start pursuing. In fact, choose as many different ones from the list and come up with your own. Nothing is set in stone and it’s easy to go in a different direction at any time.

About the author:

Patrick Bet-DavidPatrick Bet-David is a CEO, author, impossibility thinker and award-winning blogger. His intriguing perspective on opportunity is colored from his experience as a young immigrant escaping war-torn Iran in the late '80s. Having served in the U.S. military, today Patrick is founder and CEO of the PHP Agency, one of America’s fastest growing companies in the United States. Besides his traditional speaking engagements, Patrick has also hosted a series of one-on-one interviews with some of the world’s most interesting people, including renowned pastor Dudley Rutherford, presidential candidate Rick Santorum, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, and Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

More about life after high school

Forget college: Find a mentor
Should you let your teen backpack through Europe?
How to prepare your teen for the real world

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