Molly advises a 16-year-old computer whiz to quit looking for a job, stay in school, and take advantage of high-school IT programs.
Dear Molly: I am 16 years old and have been working with computers for about seven years. I am looking for a job, but I don’t know where to look. Who would hire a 16-year-old in computers? Should I wait until I get older? Do you know of anything I can do?
Molly says: I know you should stay in school and prepare yourself now to go to college in two years! Start looking now for a good four-year college that offers a superb computer science degree program. Pick a few schools and find out what their entrance requirements (GPA, SAT score, etc.) are and spend your last two years in high school focused on meeting those requirements.
If you want to work part-time in computers, look first in your school for something (anything) computer-related. The best way to do that is to find the teacher or teachers in charge of the computers in your school and ask them how you can help. They may not be able to pay you, but you will gain good experience and a great reference letter when you need it for college.
No computer needs in your school? Ask the principal for help getting involved with other schools in your area or school district. If you don’t yet have your own transportation, make sure your parents can help you.
Please also look into the high-school learning program called the Networking Academy, offered by Cisco. The company works with high schools across the United States and around the world to establish programs that let students your age get an early start on their IT education. More than 190,000 students in 150+ countries are enrolled. Your high school doesn’t need to make a huge monetary investment to participate in the program; a big computer lab isn’t required, as most of the work is Web-based.
If you can get the principal and/or some teachers interested in the program, you could help them get set up for the classes (and gain some IT experience along the way). If you can’t get them involved, look for schools in your area that are offering the program and see if you can join that program.
Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]