There’s an infinite variety of work out there. What matters most to you? Which skills and talents do you already have and which do you want to build? What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens helps narrow down those infinite choices into some concrete steps.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an online database that outlines the skills and education needed for hundreds of careers in a wide variety of fields. It identifies which fields and jobs are growing or shrinking and which jobs are related and how.
By Oregon law, every school district offers Career and Technical Education programs - Portland Public Schools, Gresham, Centennial, Parkrose, Reynolds, and David Douglas. These include a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities in class and in the community.
Hands-on experience in a field can help you figure out if that’s the career for you. Interested in a medical career? Volunteer at OHSU. Interested in Information Technology? Try Free Geek. Interested in social work? Try Oregon Food Bank. Interested in construction? Try The Rebuilding Center. Interested in a career with animals? Try the Zoo or the Audubon Society or the Humane Society. Love the library? Volunteer for us!
If you’re thinking about a business career, De la Salle North Catholic High School offers a work-study program where you can work in a corporate partner office one day a week to pay for your private high school tuition and learn job skills.
If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, you can start now. Moziah Bridges started making and selling bow ties at age nine and wrote a guide to starting a business at age 17. Mikaila Ulmer started her lemonade stand as a kid and grew it into a multi-million dollar foundation to help save bees by age 15. If those stories inspire you, The Young Adult Library of Small Business and Finance ebook series takes you through making a plan, finding funding, and marketing your business. Librarian Tara wrote a blog post about library resources to use when starting a business.
Many students from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of goals choose to go to college after high school. The library has collected sources of information on financial aid, choosing a college, college admissions, and studying abroad on our College help for teens page.
But with the high cost of college, many people are looking at alternatives. In a survey, more than half of teens said they were not interested in a four-year degree. They’d rather have shorter, job-focused training. And many of those going to college are looking for apprenticeship or internship opportunities.
Many skilled construction trades offer interesting and challenging work with good pay and benefits. Vocational high school programs, like Benson Polytechnic, can get you directly into an apprenticeship. Girls Build offers camps and afterschool programs to encourage girls to enter the building trades.
For those who have already graduated, Oregon Tradewomen offers a Trades and Apprenticeship Careers Class as a first step to learn about construction trades and enter into a paid apprenticeship.
Portland Youth Builders has two programs: Youth Build combines work toward a high school diploma or GED with vocational training in construction or technology. Or if you’ve already earned a high school diploma or GED, you can enter the nine-week Bridge program that prepares you for a paid apprenticeship and includes career counseling and leadership development.
If you have a disability, you can work with state Vocational Rehabilitation Youth Services as early as age 14 to start building skills, exploring interests, and learning about the supports that can help you find and keep a job. Once you enter your junior year, you’ll start working with your school team to learn about your diploma options and plan your transition into your next steps after high school.
The number of students taking a gap year is up* thanks to the pandemic. For many, a gap year offers time to rest, explore and mature before settling on a major and career. There are pros and cons to a gap year. Some people engage with a gap year program, but many young people take an independent gap year, working full or part time, living away from home for the first time, volunteering at home or abroad, or traveling.
For those with an interest in community service, AmeriCorps has many positions to grow your skills and make a difference. AmeriCorps members serve part time or full time for year-long positions, such as helping run after school programs, teaching cooking classes at the food bank, or helping veterans find affordable housing. The National Civilian Conservation Corps division of AmeriCorps works on hands-on conservation and climate change mitigation projects. Members in either program get a modest monthly stipend and an education award at the end of the year that can go for tuition or paying off student loans.
Still daunted? That’s okay! You’ve got your whole life and a lot to explore. Failing and recovering are part of what makes a great life after high school as much as your successes and achievements. So try something new, muck around, change your mind, and have fun!
*You will need a library card number to access these library databases. You will also need one to place holds on library books and/or check them out. Thankfully, Multnomah County Library has partnered with public school districts to provide students with automatic library accounts. See Library Connect for more information.