What I Wish I Knew In High School

This is the first post of many by Phil Coburn, Designli’s summertime marketing intern straight from his freshman year of college. Join Phil as he explores the ins-and-outs of the software industry and the world of startups, small business, and marketing.

 

Let’s be real for a moment: Despite all the promises made in school about preparing you for the real world, school does a pretty terrible job of actually delivering on that promise.

 

I’m beginning to appreciate exactly how much there is that I just flat-out have no clue about as a recent high school graduate and current college student. (And nope, college isn’t looking much better from the perspective of real-world experience). I’m just starting to dip my toes into the real world, and I’ve quickly come to two conclusions:

 

What To Do?

My first conclusion is equal parts simple and terrifying: I have no clue what I want to do. Oh sure, I know things I like to do – like writing, playing video games, and reading – but at the end of the day what I really have is a collection of hobbies . One of these or some combination of them might one day transform into an occupation, sure; but I have nothing more than a very vague grasp of how to go about transforming them from hobbies into a career.

 

I came to this realization earlier this year when I was asked if I had given thought to picking a major. I’d always thought that I would likely end up as an English major (reading and writing being some of my favorite activities), but now I’m not so sure.

 

So I started thinking. I’ve been tossing out random ideas to family and friends for a good five months now, mostly along the lines of “Hey, what do you think about this? Is this something you think I could/would enjoy doing?” after considering for myself whether I could or would enjoy doing whatever it was. This led me to my second conclusion.

 

I Need More Experience

I’m sure many of you are painfully and intimately acquainted with the college application process and the almost resume-like requirement of being a well-rounded student, also known as “how many different things can you fit into your schedule before you collapse.” You’d think this would provide plenty of experience.

 

The valuable thing about high school, at least in my opinion, is that it gives you a solid foundation in many fundamental skills: critical thinking, teamwork (hello, group projects and/or school sports teams), and a few others.

 

Unfortunately, there’s much less in the way of experience applicable to things like choosing an occupation. Sure, I learned that I enjoy the academic subjects of literature and history and philosophy, that I don’t like math, and that I can take or leave languages. But I feel woefully unprepared to even begin to take a stab at one of the most important decisions of the next phase of my life , and that’s mostly due to the fact that I feel as though I lack the necessary experience to make that decision.

 

What I Wish I Had Done

I wish I had started, well, “shopping around” for lack of a better term. I wish I had taken advantage of the relatively low level of responsibility and the completely self-imposed nature of most of the activities I participated in and tried to create opportunities for me to try my hand at different fields.

 

None of this is to say that high school or college are a waste of time. See the bit about developing fundamental skills (really, really important fundamental skills). I firmly believe in the value of education.

 

My advice to anyone in my position or a similar one would be to do. If you think you might enjoy doing something and it’s even remotely possible you might have an opportunity to do it, just do it. If you end up not liking it so much, scratch it off the list and go try something new. If nothing else, it will give you a better idea of what you might like to do in the future by demonstrating what you don’t enjoy doing.

 

Happy hunting!

 

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