High School Graduation at the Woodpile
My wife and I spent time in the car yesterday, traveling to the first of what will be at least a half dozen high school graduation parties. The trip was a great time to reflect on the opportunities today’s young people have for building their “woodpiles+” and why they absolutely should make it a priority for themselves.
One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years is that today’s youth have more opportunities than ever to be involved in their communities as volunteers.
Back in my day, volunteerism wasn’t pushed nearly as much. If you were successful enough to get into the National Honor Society, you might have to do some volunteer hours. Or if you were a part of an organization like Scouting or a church youth group, you could have to work at a pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner.
Those opportunities were extremely rewarding, but I don’t remember them being nearly as prevalent as in today’s schools and communities.
MAKE THE WOODPILE YOUR OWN
I’m sure every student’s experience is different. If you look at all of your school-age wood-piling opportunities, such as service activities, leadership development, or mentoring, your story is going to be yours and yours alone.
Maybe you were in a sport where the coach pushed you to help teammates become better. Or you got involved in a civic group that brought kids from different backgrounds together to accomplish some common goal. Perhaps your school gave you time away from the building to work or volunteer at a local pet shelter.
As a new graduate, you may not yet have realized that those activities were not only helping you build your woodpile, but they gave you the skills to accomplish an entire lifetime of community, job and family building+.
There will always be more to learn. For right now, as a new high school graduate, you’ve already earned the ability to make an impact.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it (sorry for the cheesy line from the old Mission Impossible TV show, I’m old!), is to take what you’ve learned, match it with your passions, and figure out where you’re now needed.
That’s it. Put those three items together, and you’re going to be making a difference that’s bigger than yourself. Pretty cool, right?
Let’s take a look at how that might work, based on some common post-high school graduation scenarios.
I’M OFF TO COLLEGE!
Awesome! I’m glad you’ve worked hard, enjoyed academics, and are now planning on additional schooling in the fall. It’s going to be a lot of work. You probably don’t even know what you’re going to major in, and if you do, well, more than likely it’ll change anyway. That’s ok.
The trick is to use your 2, 3, 4 or 5 (we hope?) years to quickly and effectively explore career paths and knowledge that make sense for you. Building your woodpile can help you do that, if you’re deliberate about it.
For instance, if you’re living in the dorms, build your family woodpile by becoming involved in dorm life. Maybe there’s a recreation committee? Maybe you’ll become an RA by your second year? You’re going to live, eat, study, and sleep in the same building with these folks. This is a great opportunity to build skills for working with other people in a living-style arrangement.
There will be many opportunities to build your “vocation” woodpile. When I started college, one of my options was to major in Public Relations. That led to me joining the Public Relations Club. Met some great people, learned more about what the career entailed, and figured out that it wasn’t for me. Then I moved over to Political Science/Public Administration, got involved in some civics-oriented campaigns, and things took off. That’s the kind of exploring you can’t get in the classroom.
Even better for many college students is the opportunity or requirement for internships. While not perfect, this is an even better way to gauge your suitability for a given field. Coming from someone who didn’t have an opportunity for an internship, take every one you can get!
College these days can be pretty easy for building your community woodpile. Maybe you get a kick out of running for student government. Or a club you joined because of your interest in mountain biking decides to clean up a park. Take the time to do these things. You’ll build friendships, new skills, and get real world experience that will likely be directly applicable to a future job. Maybe you’ll even get an employment reference!
I’M OFF TO WORK!
Here comes the money! Well, at least a little bit sooner than if you were taking the time for school. Or maybe you’ll be in school part-time while you work full-time. In any case, a full-time University isn’t in the cards right now (yay for the trades!).
Your woodpile building can start right away!
Are you going to be living at home for awhile, or maybe transitioning in with a roommate? Great! Here’s an opportunity to show some leadership. You’re not a kid anymore. Take some initiative to set up your new living arrangement, either with your folks or your roomies and landlord. Granted, you are not going to know what the heck you’re doing. Lead by asking, and ask lots of people. Figure out how stuff works and make sure everything is fair! Everyone will appreciate it.
Your schedule is going to look very different than while in high school. There are opportunities to volunteer in your community that will bolster your new career, so use that time to do them. Say you work in construction. Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity some weekend is going to help strengthen your skills and expand your network. Those are good things and you’ll be a leg up on those who don’t!
As for the job itself – make yourself indispensable. I don’t mean be a kiss-up! I mean be smart, dependable, and determined. Be eager to learn new things, because that’s about all you have. Figure out ways to make everyone else’s job easier, which if you’re new, might just mean doing your job well. That’s how you can start your vocation woodpile.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING BEYOND THIS PARTY!
Really? You’re my favorite!
Is this the “I’m going to take a year to figure out what I want to do!” category? I think it is.
The thing is, if you continue to do just what you’ve been doing, you’re not going to figure it out. Still playing video games and working the pizza counter? Not gonna do a lot to help. The years will roll by quickly, and there you’ll be…
Doing those things while picking up a volunteer job working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club? Now you’re figuring yourself out!
I’d encourage you to find a new job, or two, or three. Not that you had a bad one, but you need to experience new processes, new bosses, and new co-workers. Figure out how to take what you learned about yourself at your last job, and be more successful with it. Were you really good with customers? Find a customer-focused job that’ll give you some sales training, for example. Get paid for a new experience!
You’re also going to find that your family is going to change. Not your relatives, of course. I’m talking about your friends. See those other categories above this one? Many of your buds are going to pick a different path. Yeah, it’s easy to stay in touch. But it’s going to change.
For many of us, making new friends outside of a classroom isn’t a natural thing. But you can practice! Build relationships with your coworkers. Make friends at those new volunteer activities – you must have something in common if you were all drawn to that activity, right? These folks are forming the basis for your new network – the support system that will help you when you’re down, point you in new directions, or give a job referral. One of those folks might just lead you down the path that is the rest of your life!
WHAT’S YOUR MOVE?
Day one after high school is the time to start building your woodpile. The cool part is what you get back out of it – giving beyond yourself is going to return benefits to you for a lifetime!
No matter your situation, remember these guideposts:
- Be deliberate
- Build your community, family, and vocation woodpiles
- Try to connect your experience, passion, and where you’re needed for best effect.
I wish you all the luck in the world!
Any questions? I’m sure your new Woodpile community would love to help! Let us know in the comments below or read additional articles for ideas and inspiration! Be sure to join us at our Facebook and Twitter communities to catch future tips and encouragement.