No matter your teenager’s career goal, the single most important preparation she can undertake while still in high school is work experience. She will learn what it is like to work for and with others, and she will have material to create a resume. Ideally, the work experience will be paid, but she may need to begin by finding a volunteer position.

While your child should take the lead in finding her own work experience, you can teach and guide her throughout the process. Help your child understand she will likely not get an ideal first job. For instance, if she hopes to be a chef, it doesn’t mean she is prepared to cook at a restaurant. Any job, whether sorting silverware at a restaurant or bagging groceries, is an important step on the work experience ladder.

With your guidance, she can also learn how to conduct a successful job search:

  • Start with the basics. This list of 10 steps to start a job search is specific to persons with visual impairments.
  • Help her understand the importance of organizing her space, which reduces stress in the process of finding a job.
  • Help her understand the importance of managing her time, which increases her personal responsibility and dependability.
  • Talk with your child about the hiring process, which is typically finding a job lead, calling the potential employer, filling out a job application and/or sending in a resume with a cover letter, waiting to be called for an interview (which may never happen), interviewing, and possibly being called and told she received or did not receive the job.
  • Teach her how to find and use job leads. Help her understand that most jobs are found through a personal network—a friend, neighbor, or fellow church member knows of an open position and recommends you to the hiring manager.
  • Think through, aloud and with your child, jobs that your child can reach within walking distance, via public transportation, or performing work at home.
  • Help her create a personal data sheet, simplifying the process of filling out a job application.
  • Assist your teenager in building a resume and writing a cover letter.
  • Talk with your child about when she will disclose her disability.
  • Teach your child to identify potential work-at-home scams.

As you coach your teen through her job search, consult CareerConnect’s lesson plan series, “Journey to a Successful Work Experience,” and read the article series, “Conducting a Successful Job Search.” Invite your child to participate in “The Job Seeker’s Toolkit,” a free, online course preparing her for career exploration and the job-seeking process.