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How to Find "Your Thing" in High School

Student Life

Mon, April 01

Somehow, over the past five years, my hobbies and projects and the things I'm curious about have led me to one thing: starting an Etsy shop. And not just that—starting an Etsy shop turned into hosting a podcast, which turned into speaking at small business events, which turned into giving friends advice about starting their own shops…

And as a girl who watches Shark Tank fairly regularly and sold handmade potholders door-to-door as a third grader, it's not entirely surprising. (Though I would not have expected the business etiquette you need to learn for things like email, invoicing, and general "professionalism").

Feel like you haven't quite found "your thing" yet? Let's talk about it:

Try Everything

Well, maybe not everything. I've never played tennis, and I somehow know I would be embarrassingly horrible at it! But trying out for the school play showed me that I could enjoy public speaking and acting with a lot of practice.

Saying "yes" to being a school tour guide gave me more confidence when talking with adults. Being the student tech assistant (or whatever they called it) for school-wide assembly slideshows showed me that I was not that into learning about tech.

Is there a business club at your school? A place where you can try digital art? What about playing an instrument?

Have you tried cooking or baking? Is there somewhere you've thought about volunteering or interning?

Now is the time to try things—it's much easier to play at a piano recital when you're 15 or 16 and feel like you're not very "good" at it than it would be when you're out of college, looking at the 12-year-olds playing Beethoven and thinking to yourself, "If only I would've tried this earlier, maybe I could plunk out more than a few eighth notes by now".

Take The Opportunities to Practice

There's always an excuse to practice something. Want to be a better public speaker? Offer to lead the presentation for the group project. Want to get into digital art? Sure, you can practice independently, but you could also design a friend's birthday party invitations or a club T-shirt (there always seems to be someone hosting a T-shirt design contest…)

I've always admired the chalkboard art at restaurants and ice cream shops—it's absolutely beautiful! I learned cursive in school, got a book about modern calligraphy four years ago as a gift, and thought I might be able to learn how to do chalkboard art.

If the people designing and creating the signs at Trader Joe's can do it, so could I… Right?

One day, when my family and I were eating at a small restaurant in Iowa, I saw my chance. One of the chalkboards had an outdated specials menu, and I asked our server if I could design it.

"I've been practicing chalkboard art and I was wondering if I could design your Specials board? If you don't like it you can always erase it!"

Assuming I was an art student, she asked her manager, who brought me a basket of sidewalk chalk and one white liquid chalk marker.

Perfect.

The board wasn't amazing, but it was better than before. They even offered me a brownie after everything was done.

Image Credit: Anna B.

Many times we think that we need to be professional before we offer to do something or put ourselves out there for a job. However, most of the time, the best way to learn and improve is by doing.

Here's another example:

I've always wanted to work at a coffee shop. I'm not the friendliest, bubbliest person, but when I got the job opening at the local coffee place, I picked it up quickly. By listening to the other people and what they were chatting about with the customers, I could do the same thing, putting my own spin on it.

Explore a Different Type of Summer Job

Lifeguarding, working at a retail shop, or working in food service are all popular jobs for teens. Try all of them!

Beyond that, are there other types of work you think you'd enjoy? Business owners are often willing to let someone else run social media management—if you're on top of the trends and have an interest in creating content, why not? Usually, it helps if you have a relationship with the owner to ask them personally for an internship.

Think of:

  • Your family's hairstylist/massage therapist
  • Photographers you know
  • Artists or creatives you meet at farmer's markets
  • Your music teacher
  • Podcasts you listen to
  • Your school or sibling's school
  • Your city's youth clubs or similar groups

Maybe it's not social media management but something else – for you, it could be investing extra time into your art, creating YouTube videos (it only feels cringy until you're "successful"), or taking online coding classes. Or, you could try playing live music at local restaurants – this video of Piper talking about how she used to do it is so inspiring!

@pipercassidyphillips

you don’t need to “find yourself” you just need to come back to her. #growth #personalgrowth #inspiration #innerchild #taylorswift #selfhelp

♬ original sound - Piper Phillips

It's easy to think, "I'm not talented at any one thing; I don't have any skills that are good enough yet." Remember – right now is the best time to try something new. Anyone who has tried anything new has felt the same way you do… It might take a few iterations for something to click, and that's okay!

Here are some journal questions to think about:

  • What sorts of things do I see and admire?
  • Am I detail-oriented or a big-picture thinker?
  • Am I more creative or motivated by crossing items off a to-do list?
  • What things are fun for me to do?
  • What's something I could do for hours and not get tired?

You have so much time to find “your thing,” and there's probably not just one of them.

Anna B.
5,000+ pageviews

Writer since May, 2022 · 5 published articles

Anna started an Etsy shop when she was 12, which led to endless hours making greeting cards, hosting an online event for 250 teens, and even giving a TEDx talk. She's the host of Soaring Stories, a podcast bringing you behind the scenes to hear the untold stories of small business owners… the challenges, mistakes, and not-so-overnight successes.

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