Like lots of you, I was very time-conscious during high school and tried to fill my days with activities. All any parent, teacher, and school administrator had to do was say, “That’ll look good for colleges.” and I would freak out and add whatever “that” was to my schedule. When I wasn’t going to school, I was trying to do my extracurriculars. When I wasn’t doing my extracurriculars, I was thinking about ways to talk up said extracurriculars to colleges. When summer rolled around, I had to think of more ways to fill my time, and that meant joining the millions of teenagers employed in a variety of odd jobs. I didn’t know it at the time, but these jobs taught me valuable skills. Here are some lessons I have learned:

1. Look for opportunities everywhere.

I got a job as a restaurant server when I asked inside the restaurant after seeing a “help wanted” sign while I was passing the restaurant. If you want a job, look everywhere–the Internet, billboards, want ads, Craig’s List …just be careful! Be smart and use common sense. If your gut is telling you that the job is not legit or sketchy, don’t take it. But keep your eyes open, and when you have a question, ask. Squeaky wheels in life get the most attention.

2. Use (and nurture) your connections.

I got my job working at the desk at the rehab clinic because my mom worked there and found out that they wanted people to take jobs. Use your connections! If your connection consists of your parents or your great-aunt Sally, that’s great. Because, at the end of the day, while people who don’t know your parents or your great-aunt might be out of work, you’ll have an “in” that those people do not. Ask around if you’re looking for work, and pay it forward. If you know where there’s a job opening up at your workplace or somewhere nearby, let others know about it. Building a network is important. Everyone you know is part of your network. You never know what opportunities will arise with different people. If you get a job through someone you know, great! Thank them. Building relationships around you will also strengthen your network.

3. Show up.

I got my job as a wedding and funeral cantor by chance because I was a regular churchgoer who got drafted into singing one Sunday because the regular cantor was sick with the flu. If you like doing something, show up regularly. That shows your interest and helps people get to know you within that setting. If you want to work within a particular career, try to get involved somehow. I have several friends who have been able to get jobs at their favorite hang out spots because they were there regularly, befriended the people who worked there, and dropped a few hints that they were in want of work. Give purpose to your daily outings. Each outing is an opportunity.

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