Okay, the 4th of July is past, and I have all my fingers still. Most people are out of school right now, and aside from all the tanning, partying, and sleeping in, some of you are probably wondering what you should be doing with your summer.

The answer is, of course, you should enjoy your summer. There are so few of them that you will be able to enjoy. But enjoying your summer doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish anything. Especially in high school, you should be looking ahead, towards college and to your future life after college. There are a lot of things for you to think about, but my goal isn’t to make life so difficult that you just don’t want to do what’s needed. My goal is to make life easier for you.

Do Something that makes the world a better place.- Many adults believe that you are self-centered, egotistic, and spoiled. I don’t believe this is true, but I’m not the guy hiring you. You need to prove that you are concerned with things outside yourself. When I talk about doing something to make the world a better place, I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky altruism. I’m talking about something concrete. Join a group that is dedicated to cleaning the environment, saving an endangered animal, or something else that leaves a mark on the world. Avoid groups that are overly controversial, because you want to put your membership on your resume. So, whatever you decide to do, make it something that you will be proud of.

Read the newspaper every day, cover-to-cover.- The world is a big place, and a lot of things happen there every day. You only know what happens in your corner of the world. When you get into college, and when you get into the real world, knowing more about what is going on will help you. In college, you will most likely have to take a class dealing with current events, and you will need to train yourself to read a newspaper critically. In the real world, there will be many opportunities for you to talk about what’s going on. If you don’t participate, cliques being what they are, you will be left out.

Never give anonymously.- I kind of stole this one from a sales training class from my wife’s work, but it holds just as true. When you do something, make sure people know that you did it. I’m not talking about making big announcements, but I am talking about being proud of your ability to do things. Depending on what you do, you may be able to put it on a resume, your deed may help you get into a preferred program at school, or it may even open up networking opportunities for you.

Go Shopping.- Don’t get too excited here, I’m not talking about going to the mall and maxing out your credit cards. Go shopping. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur, or whether you want to be a good employee somewhere, your personal brand is important. Decide what you want to be, who you want to be perceived as (notice the difference), and see how other people and companies are demonstrating their brand. Do you see a lot of successful lawyers or doctors walking around the mall with a faux-hawk? Decide whether you really want to portray yourself the way you have been, and if necessary, change it.

Take Inventory.- Decide what is important to you. Not just about yourself, but about your career, your school, and all the other parts of your life. I’ll give you an example. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I have always been against unions. To be a teacher, especially in California, you have to join a very large and powerful union. I have had to look at my options to decide how important my anti-union beliefs are vs. my desire to be a teacher. Life isn’t black or white. There are a lot of gray areas. It is up to you to determine your willingness to live within the gray.

Prepare a Resume.- Almost all companies require this from applicants, and increasingly, so do a lot of school programs. A resume is your one-page opportunity to make someone interested in you. There are a number of places to get tips on creating a resume, so I won’t reprint them here. Some tips that I think are very important however: Invest in some decent paper stock to print your resume on, have two or three people that would know about resumes proofread it for you, and never ever lie on your resume—the chances are too great that you will be caught, and that will destroy your chances of getting anywhere.

Some of the things on this list are really one-shots. You shouldn’t have to take too much time out of enjoying summer. Some of them can be done while you are doing something else. Some require a small time investment, but the payoff far outweighs your expenditure. Enjoy your summer, but keep in mind that it will eventually end, and your real life will be back. You can minimize some of the shock by being prepared. Your preparation will put you far ahead of the rest of the pack!

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