Lesson

Getting Started While You’re in High School (or even after)

If you’re still in high school (actually even if you’re out already) and are looking to begin doing what needs to be done to build yourself an amazing career in construction, then this is where to get started. We’re going over 5 different ideas that can help you to begin building yours skills, experiences and network (people that can perhaps help you at some point).

What you can do. Take your pick.

Click any of the tabs below (or all of them) to learn more!

high school students

First thing I need to do is tell you a bit about public high schools so that you’re aware that there might be free training programs close to home that you can get involved in while you’re still in high school. If you’re out of high school they’ll have a cost, but it’s usually pretty inexpensive and very accessible.  Here goes…

Public high schools are free education and they come in a variety of types, but we’re going to briefly mention the most common options:

  • CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE)

    CTE high schools offer traditional academic courses as well as intensive career specific courses.  Students in these schools must be enrolled in a CTE program of study as well as take all of the academic courses they’ll need to graduate.  The CTE programs of study these schools offer could range from biotechnology to forestry to automotive…. and everything you could imagine in between.  A few things to know about CTE high schools:

    – Each school may differ regarding which CTE programs they offer.
    – Although they’re free public high schools, there’s an application process so not everyone will be accepted.
    – They’re typically regional and will accept students from the town it’s in as well as other towns in close proximity so that students can be transported over from their hometown.
    – They often offer night school (adult education) courses for some of their CTE programs for people who weren’t able to get into the high school, or who are adults returning to school to switch careers or get additional training. Unfortunately night classes aren’t free so there is a cost or tuition attached to them.

  • TRADITIONAL

    This is the type of high school you’re probably most familiar with.  These schools offer traditional academic courses and some electives;  nothing new here. BUT… students may have access to a Career & Technical Education (CTE) Center if there’s one in their area or region.

    A Career & Technical Education “Center” is a public school that only offers CTE programs; which means that all of the students that attend take their academic classes at their traditional hometown high school (and graduate from there) and then get transported over to the CTE Center daily to participate in their CTE program of study.

  • COMPREHENSIVE

    Traditional high schools that also offer some CTE programs of study. Best of both worlds!

Why did I tell you all this & why should you care?

You could end up saving a ton of time and money preparing for your career goal, that’s why.  Here are some things you can do to see if Career & Technical Education courses are available to you…

– If you’re not yet in high school and know you want to be involved in a specific career, then track down and contact the CTE school in your area to see how to apply.

– If you’re still in high school check out your school’s course catalog or contact your guidance counselor to see if your school offers any CTE classes you can take.

– If your high school doesn’t have CTE classes, contact your guidance counselor to see if there’s a CTE “Center” in your region that you can take classes at.

– If you’re out of high school, contact the CTE high school (or CTE Center) in your area to see what night classes they offer.

Not getting the answers you need from the schools? No worries...

If you’re not able to get the information you need from your high school for whatever reason, you just have to go online and do a google search for your state’s Department of Education (DOE).

– Once you get to that site look around for a link for either Career and Technical Education or Adult Education.

– If the DOE site is hard to navigate and you can’t find your way around, just call the main number and ask them to direct you to someone who can talk to you about Career & Technical Education.

Boom… done.

Be sure check out the other ideas in the tabs above.

informational interview

It’s a good idea (actually a great idea) to talk to people who are involved in the career you’re interested in.

Do you have to? No. Should you? Absolutely, and there’s a reason why.

Job descriptions, salary charts and careers videos look good online, even great.  But you’re not going to get the true lowdown on what a career is like (as well as the work environment) until you talk to some people who do that job, or get a chance to hang out or even work in that environment.

The question is, how do you do that?  Here’s a well-known secret… People want to help you. They want to share what they know with someone who’s interested, and if they can make a positive impact… that’s huge for most people.

So what do you do and how do you get started? Informational Interviews are a great place to start.

informational interview

Informational Interviews are just conversations with a purpose; the purpose being that one person shares information with someone else (you) who is interested in what they have to say.  You should try to track down a few people you can talk to who are in the career you’re interested in so that you can get the real low-down on what’s up with that career.

Not sure how to go about doing that? Check out the following to give you some ideas on how to get started reaching out to people.

  • Get Questions Ready

    Put together a list of questions you have about the career you’re interested in so you have them ready. Questions like:

    1. Why did you choose this career?

    2. What do you like best about this career?
    3. What do you like least?
    4. How did you start out in this career?
    5. What kind of education and training have you had?
    6. … and any other questions that are important to you.

  • Find people to talk to.

    Find some people who have the career you want. I’d say at least 5 because not all of them will be available or respond to you. These people could be in your community, but with the magic of email they can literally be anywhere in the world. How do you find these people? Here are a few ideas:

    – Ask friends and family.
    – Ask your guidance counselor or teachers if they know anyone.
    – If you school has a relevant CTE class, ask that teacher.
    – If your school doesn’t have a CTE class, contact a CTE school and get the contact info for the relevant CTE teacher there.
    – Contact a local trade or industry association and/or union for the career you’re interested in. Do a google search and the info should pop up. See if they know of anyone who might have a conversation with you.

  • Get their contact info.

    If you were given the name of someone to connect with by someone you know or have spoken to, ask them upfront for the person’s email (or phone#) and ask if you can mention that you were referred to them by that person.

    If you found names of people to talk to on your own then track down their contact info via google or calling their office and mentioning that you’re doing research on a career and would they have 10 minutes for an informational interview.

  • Contact them.

    You’ve gotten their email address, now it’s time to email them. Here’s a sample email…

    SUBJECT: Info Interview to learn about XX career. Would you have 10 minutes for a phone call?

    Hello,
    My name is xxxx and I’m researching careers in the construction industry. I’m interested in learning more about being a xxxxxx and was hoping that you have time for a 10 minute phone call so I can ask you some questions regarding your experiences.

    Hope to hear back from you and that we have the opportunity to meet by phone or in person.  If not, I most certainly understand.

    Regards,
    Your name
    _________________________________

    If you got a referral from someone that knows the person you’re contacting, be sure to include that info in your Subject and email…

    SUBJECT: Referred by (name of person who referred you) re: an Info Interview to learn about XX career.

    Hello,
    My name is xxxx and I was referred to you by  xxx.  I’m researching careers in the construction industry and they thought you might have 10 minutes to share with me for an information interview……..

  • Don't get discouraged.

    If you don’t hear back from people right away don’t worry about it. Sometimes emails get buried in our inbox, or we get busy or sidetracked with what’s going on in our own lives. And sometimes we just forget. Doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you, just means they might need a reminder.

    Be a Squeaky Wheel

    Contact them again after a week or so if you don’t hear back; they’ll likely be glad you did! Takes the pressure off of them to get back to you in case they’ve forgotten. And if they don’t respond don’t take it personal, just try someone else.

Be sure to check out the other ideas in the tabs above.

job shadow

A job shadow is where you get a chance to meet with someone at their place of work and spend some time with them there. What’s great about them?

– You’ll end up getting that informational interview.
– You’ll see what it’s like to work in that environment.
– You’ll see what the people who work there are like.
– You’ll get to talk to other people who work there to get their perspective.

Of course, no job site or location is the same but doing at least one job shadow will give you a good feel for whether or not that work environment is the type of place you’d enjoy.

How do you find a Job Shadow?

– If you’re in high school talk to your guidance counselor to see if there’s a formal job shadow program at your school. They might already have a list of prescreened people and companies who are willing to let students come in for a job shadow and/or informational interview.
– Go back to what you just read about Informational Interviews in the tab above and reach out to people in the same way. Start with a phone conversation, and then if they’re close by ask them if it would be possible for you to do a job shadow for a couple of hours (or even a whole day) at some point.

ALWAYS BE SAFE AND SMART.   Make sure that you only go to a legitimate work location and/or site and that someone either brings you or is aware of you participating in a job shadow at that location.

Be sure to check out the other ideas in the tabs above.

part time job

What better way to see what a job is really like! Even if you’re doing the most entry-level tasks you’ll not only gain valuable skills, but you’ll also get to to learn so much about the people, the environment, the responsibilities and the culture of working in the career and/or company you’re interested in.

Not only that you’ll get to meet people which will help you to build your network of people that you can probably reach out to later on when you’re actually looking for a job!  They might end up having a job opening or they might know of a job opening somewhere else.  Even better they might know of a job opening AND know someone who works there so if you made a good impression they might  give you a recommendation. Huge score! In the world of work and finding a job it really is all about who you know since more than 80% of jobs are filled via a person’s network. That’s a fact!

So if you’re interested in plumbing, instead of getting a part-time job at a retail store head over to a local plumbing or building supply company and see if they’re hiring 🙂

Be sure to check out the other ideas in the tabs above.

volunteer

Very similar to a part-time or summer job (without the pay) is volunteering for an organization that has some ties to the construction industry so that you can gain pretty much everything you would gain from having a part-time or summer job!

Next question is probably… where do I find volunteer opportunities that are focused on the construction industry? I’m not sure what’s available in your community but at the very least I’d suggest contacting the following…

– Your city or town hall to see if they have any departments that would be looking for volunteers to do what you’re interested in doing.
United Way in your area
Red Cross
Habitat for Humanity

Also, here are some links to national volunteer organizations that could direct you to groups that are looking for volunteers in your area…

VolunteerMatch.org
JustServe.org
CreatetheGood
Americorps

Be sure check out the other ideas in the tabs above.

Once you’re done checking out all 5 of the tabs on this page (see above), then click the Topic below… “Dual Enrollment” for more good info.

Lesson Topics