What to Do After High School. The 5 Step Process For Starting Your Career

Troy Buckholdt
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What to Do After High School. The 5 Step Process For Starting Your Career

Don’t know what to do after high school? Don’t know what to do with your life? Many people who are currently enrolled in high school or recently graduated are confused about what they should do. They don’t know what they want to do in their life and many times just aimlessly go to college as a default.

This 5 step process will give you a foundation to getting on a path to starting a career you love. You will no longer think you are just drifting through life without a purpose. You will no longer waste tens of thousands of dollars on useless education.

This process that I’ve created is called “The Lean Career”. It is formulated with many of the same ideas taught by Eric Ries in his book “The Lean Startup”.

The Traditional Path Is Often the Most Inefficient and Ineffective Way to Start a Career

The majority of people in the US think that the best way to start a career is to graduate high school with decent grades then enroll in a decent 4-year college. Most of these people still have no idea what they want to do with their life but think they will just figure it out in college.

I’m sure you’ve noticed these people. They are like a piece of driftwood just floating along with the current having no idea where they will end up. They rack up huge amounts of debt, then graduate with a degree they nearly chose by random because people told them it doesn’t matter what they major in as long as they have a degree.

These degrees normally range anywhere from psychology, business, communications, or pretty much any form of liberal arts. The problem with these types of studies is that people start with the education and then search for a role where it can be used.

This normally doesn’t work too well because companies require a much different skill set and expertise than what people learn in college. This is why college is so inefficient.

These same people submit applications to every type of job in every industry as long as it says something like “Entry-Level” or “Recent Grads Welcome”. Since their skill set is so general and broad the only thing they have going for them when applying to these positions is their college degree and where it is from.

These types of entry-level jobs also get hundreds if not thousands of applicants from people with the same background as them. This makes it so they don’t stand out at all and probably won’t get an interview. This is why college is so ineffective.

The Most Efficient and Effective Way to Start a Career

The most efficient and effective way to start a career is by working backward from the actual role you would be doing. This means you chose just one role that is the starting point to a career and you specialize/major in it. You learn everything about that one particular role and how to be the absolute best at it.

Once you get in, then you expand and broaden your knowledge through life long learning to advance your career. This is the opposite of the traditional path of starting broad then specializing.

With the advancements in online education, you should be able to learn everything needed for nearly free. It could be 100-1000 times less expensive than the traditional college path. It also helps you get ahead of your peers.

This specialized knowledge for that one role makes you stand out like a sore thumb to employers. Even without a degree, they will easily overlook it if you prove your interest in the role and your ability to do it effectively. You can learn more about the process of sticking out to employers through your specialized knowledge here.

The Lean Career Formula is composed of 5 parts to figuring out what to specialize in and starting your career with it.

  1. Identify what your good at and what you’re interested in. 
  2. Figure out which roles are in your intersection and put together a list of them all. 
  3. Learn briefly about all of the different roles and pick one that interests you the most.
  4. Learn everything about that role to be able to do it effectively while fully understanding the expectations and responsibilities.
  5. Get an internship/entry-level position in that role and see if it is something you would want to make a career out of it. If not, then pick a different role and repeat the learn/test cycle.

Step 1: Identify what you’re good at and what you’re interested in.

The first step in this process is to understand your natural strengths and weaknesses. Think soft skills. Are you more of an analytical person that likes to be alone, or are you a very outgoing person that loves talking. Are you more of a doer or more of a thinker?

You can take some different types of personality tests to help you figure it out if you don’t already know. This will help determine the types of roles at a company your best suited for.

You then need to think about all of the different things you’re interested in. Do you like computers? Do you like cars? There are probably lots of things you are drawn to learning more about and researching for fun. This will help determine the type of company and industry your best suited for. Some roles are industry-specific, so this can be very important.

What to do after high school

Step 2: Put together a list of roles that are in line with your intersection.

You will need to find roles in the intersection between your strengths and your interests. For example, this could look something like a person that is very technical, detail oriented and likes to be alone. They are interested in how businesses grow and enjoy being on the computer. This person could probably be a good fit for marketing analytics, digital marketing, or perhaps a type of data analyst.

Another example could be someone who loves being around people and is good at communicating. They are interested in cars, boats and enjoy being outside. This person could be a good fit for car sales, boat sales, or maybe event planning.

Put together a list of all of the different roles you think are in your intersection. You can using google and different job boards to help you find these roles. Try to find at least 10 roles and don’t worry if your list is too big.

What to do after high school

Step 3: Learn briefly about all of the different roles and pick one that interests you the most.

After you have your list of all the different roles, then briefly learn about each of them. Learn things such as the requirements, what a work day would look like, and the career trajectory. You should also learn about entry points into these careers to make sure you can actually break into them.

They should be somewhat entry-level and require anywhere from 0-2 years of experience. Keep in mind that many of these roles will say they require a degree when they really don’t. This is especially true for roles that aren’t regulated by the government to require a degree.

For the roles that are regulated, you can still learn about and probably even get an internship or a supporting position without a college degree. If you decide that it’s right for you, then you could easily fly through the college exams and get the required degree.

You will want to shorten this list to 5 or fewer roles, then pick the one that is best aligned with your skills & interests. You should think long and hard about this as the next short chapter of your life will be devoted to it.

What to do after high school.

Step 4: Learn everything about that role to be able to do it effectively while fully understanding the expectations and responsibilities.

This part of the process is by far the most time consuming but will help you significantly grow as a person. After you choose the role you want to specialize in, then you will probably spend anywhere from 1-6 months learning about it.

  1. Read every job description and do extensive research on the role to learn what skills & knowledge are required. Break these requirements down into 3 parts. Soft skills, hard skills, and knowledge.
  2. Figure out the best resources to go about learning these parts. These resources could be books, blogs, YouTube videos, online courses, etc. The most important part is that you learn from resources that are well respected by companies in the industry you’re going into. You can learn more about this process in the complete guide I wrote.
  3. Try to find others that are also learning about the role too, so you can collaborate and help each other (study partner). You could also try to find people in the industry that can help mentor and guide you.
  4. Test yourself or get others to, so you know you are able to do the role effectively and are ready to start applying to companies.

If the role you chose is supported by CourseCareers, then all of these things are already done for you. CourseCareers Specializations.

what to do after high school

Step 5: Get an internship/entry-level position in that role and see if it is something you would want to make a career out of it.

After you have learned everything that is required to be successful in the role, the next step is to test your knowledge in an internship or entry-level position. You can apply to the same companies you used for their job descriptions to figure out what is required for your specialization.

Something to keep in mind when applying to companies is that most of them have something called an “ATS” Applicant Tracking System. This system might automatically filter out people that don’t have a degree, so you probably won’t have much luck applying to companies through online job boards. Here is the correct way to apply.

  1. Create a list of all of the different companies that are hiring for your role in either the entry-level position or internship.
  2. Find the associated contacts in charge of hiring for that role in the company. You can use LinkedIn to do this. This person would be considered the hiring manager or department manager.
  3. Find the contact information for each contact at the companies. You can use a free service called NeverBounce to guess their email address.
  4. Submit an online application to their company website and send an email to the hiring manager pitching them on why you are interested in the position/company. You can also add them on LinkedIn and even try calling their office if you find their phone number. You can also pitch companies that don’t have an internship position about becoming an intern.

If the role is supported by CourseCareers, then all of these things are already done for you as companies on our platform are actively looking to hire in your specialization. Checkout Out Our Program here at CourseCareers.

Putting It All Together

After you work in this internship for a few months you should have a good chance of turning it into a permanent position at the same company if you’re really interested in it and doing a good job.

If the company doesn’t offer you a permanent position, then you can leverage that experience to get a full-time role at another company or get another internship.

If you learned that the role isn’t for you, then you should start back at step 3 by choosing another role to specialize in and repeat the learning/internship process.

This is also known as the learn/test cycle. The good thing about this is that there is a good chance that most of what you learned from your first specialization is transferable to the second one.

Some things to keep in mind are that there are still some companies out there that will flat out never hire someone without a degree or worse. They will hire you for an entry-level position, but won’t promote you just because you don’t have a degree.

For the majority of companies out there, this is not the case. You will be promoted based on the work you do and the results you bring to the company.

The ability to learn on your own through self-education and continuously grow are among the most important things companies for looking for in new employees. You’re quickly on your way to becoming the CEO.

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