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The Time to Start Building a Career Is in High School

In today’s economy, students face an ultracompetitive job market, where many college graduates are unemployed, underemployed, or have simply given up. So it’s no surprise that students are starting to build careers in high school in order to better compete for college admissions, college internships, and eventually full-time jobs.

In a study with, we found that high school students are already focusing on their careers, more so than college students, and that 50 percent of companies surveyed are creating high school internship programs this year.

Getting work experience during high school will pay dividends as you advance your career. It’s easier to get an internship in college if you had one in high school. If you’re currently a high school student, or you’re the parent of one, here are three tips to help you get a head start—beyond what you typically hear from a high school guidance counselor about keeping your grades high and doing volunteer work.

Prepare for your interviews. Companies want students who know how to interview well. The most common complaint from college recruiters is that students are unprepared for job interviews. To prepare for your next interview, review the company website, Google News to see if they have any recent announcements, and the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile.

Start your own company. Why rely on a company to offer you an internship when you can create your own internship experience—a company of your own. You can start an Etsy or EBay store, or do freelance consulting based on your skills.

Learn how to use social media for business. Social media marketing was the hottest skill on LinkedIn (LNKD) in 2013. In our study, we found that 73 percent of high school internships are for social media marketing projects. High school students are up on all the latest technologies, and companies want their help getting up to speed. By mastering sites like Twitter (TWTR), Facebook (FB), and Instagram for business, you will have more professional opportunities.

Dan Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, now in an expanded paperback edition. He is also a managing partner of Millennial Branding, a branding company that serves individuals and corporations.

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