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How Start Building Yourself Up Professionally

Written by Nicole Krempasky on Wednesday, 24 February 2021. Posted in Helpful Tips, Traditional Students

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High school is a time for fun and learning, but it can also be the starting point for your professional life. Your experiences, work, and volunteerism matter, so why not focus on these activities to help you get ahead after high school? James Madison can help you with some helpful tips on getting started.

Why should I start building professional experience in high school?

High school might not seem like the time in your life you need to start worrying about jobs and your professional career, but with the working world and collegiate world growing increasingly more competitive, it’s important to give yourself every advantage possible.

Exiting high school, or even college, and applying for a job can be particularly intimidating. Often, employers expect some level of experience for even entry-level jobs, so having no resume or professional profile can be discouraging. But there are opportunities where you can showcase the important experiences you do have. After school jobs and volunteer work can provide the building blocks for your first resume, as well as open doors for new opportunities and connections.

What experiences can count towards professional development?

Academics certainly matter, but don’t forget that extracurricular activities can be important in getting you a job or into college. If you don’t already have a job or volunteer anywhere, start thinking about what interests you and the type of career you may want to pursue. For instance, if you love animals and have a passion for helping them, you might want to consider volunteering at a local shelter. You’ll gain hands-on experience with animals in addition to connecting with vets, vet techs, and others involved in the animal welfare world.

Or, students who have an interest in childcare or education can take on babysitting jobs or become a youth volunteer with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Summer camps and daycares also provide good opportunities to work with children.

If you have a special talent or skill like art or carpentry, find professionals in that field who may be looking for extra help on weekends or during the summer. Whatever your passions are, look for part-time jobs or volunteer positions to help you gain the experience you want and the connections you need to further pursue it. You can hone your own skills, gain more insight into the business aspect of a career, and earn references and networking opportunities with other professionals for when you want to embark on your own professional journey.

Don’t forget that school clubs and extracurricular activities can count for a lot, too. Your participation shows interest, initiative, and dedication, which can be impressive for potential employers. Both colleges and employers in all fields look for candidates with strong leadership skills, so if you also happen to hold a leadership position within a club or sport, it can act as a bonus asset you’ll want to highlight.

How do I show my accomplishments and experience?

Just about any job you ever apply to will require a resume. Now that you’ve established what jobs, volunteerism, and activities, it’s time to start building a resume. While a resume is one of the most important resources in your professional toolkit, LinkedIn is another great resource that’s being used more widely. Not only does it help you create a guideline of your school and work experience, but it can open you to more opportunities. Typically, the only time your traditional resume is seen is when you submit it for a job, but LinkedIn allows recruiters to view your active resume without you having to apply for a specific position. It also can curate job notifications based on your experience, alerting you to new openings for which you may qualify as well as allowing you to apply for them through the site.

Plus, any connections that you’ve made that also use LinkedIn can “endorse” you. This means if they were impressed by your skills or work ethic, it can be seen by anyone who views your profile. It’s a great way to provide a reference to any potential employers.

Build yourself up with James Madison

Volunteering, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs might seem like a lot in addition to school, but with James Madison, all your classes are online and self-paced so you can build your studies around your life. You can study as fast or slow as you need. With no set deadlines, you can take on as many or as few courses as you’d like, so you can choose where to prioritize your focus. Enroll online or call an Admissions Specialist at to learn more about studying on your terms.

About the Author

Nicole Krempasky

Nicole Krempasky

Nicole Krempasky earned a BA in Communications with a minor in Art History from Arcadia University. Just finishing her MA in International Journalism from Edinburgh Napier University, she is putting her writing and research skills to use as Penn Foster’s Marketing Coordinator. Nicole enjoys baking, traveling, and British TV.