Six ways teens can start a career in business

Young people can make steps toward their future career before they leave school. For those considering a career in business, university might seem the only logical path. But it’s worth taking a good look at other options that might offer even richer opportunities.

Why prepare large

1. Travel

A gap year isn’t often thought of as a way to launch a career in business, but by thinking carefully about why they’re doing it and making plans accordingly, a young person can gain a wider view of the world and enrich their mind. Time spent abroad can also develop new skills and broaden career possibilities.

If they know how to show it off what they’ve achieved, a gap year can make a young person stand out from the crowd. Employers can often see those who take gap years as adaptable self-starters with a less conventional edge.

2. Volunteering and community work

By volunteering, young people can try out different kinds of work they might otherwise not encounter. They might meet well-connected people, for example, by volunteering for a local newspaper or website. Volunteering may mean a less pressured environment, which can build confidence they can take into paid work.

3. Apprenticeships and work experience

An apprenticeship is no ‘second best’ to university, and gone are the days when apprenticeships were concentrated in trades like construction. Nowadays apprenticeships are available as a way to gain in-depth experience in almost any field — from finance to software engineering. Law, accountancy and professional services firms all rely on apprenticeships as a major source of energetic talent.

An apprenticeship lets a young person get used to a professional environment, develop skills and often be mentored by senior staff — all whilst getting paid. Apprenticeships and graduate schemes aim to help fast-track those entering their career toward a professional standard.

Business owner and The Apprentice finalist Bianca Miller says, “When I was leaving school, had I known what I know now, I definitely would have considered an apprenticeship. It teaches you the importance of building relationships, marketing yourself and getting workplace experience. I may have been in a much better position — I certainly wouldn’t have a large student loan to repay.”

Work experience is another option worth considering as a way for younger people to get a flavour for a job while earning money. Work experience programmes come in many forms — a few weeks to a year, full- or part-time. They may even end in a job offer or an apprenticeship.

4. Entrepreneurship 

With high public and political enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, it’s an easier choice for young people than it once was. With a promising idea, teenagers can progress through one of many routes. 

Living in a major city with an established entrepreneurship community like London’s Silicon Roundabout, Cambridge’s Silicon Fen or tech hubs in Manchester and Edinburgh may help connect with the right people to launch a concept. Through free digital media like YouTube and Instagram, and crowdsourcing like Patreon and Kickstarter, switched-on young people can deliver new ideas swiftly to the right consumers and investors.

Those young people who make good entrepreneurs are creative problem-solvers, with dedication to understanding their market and the problems its customers face.

It’s worth remembering that 92% of start-ups fail, but entrepreneurs might read that statistic the other way around. In any case, a failed endeavour is not a catastrophe, but a learning experience that future employers often look upon favourably.

5. University 

University study is arguably the most 'mainstream' path to a career.  University also means societies and careers fairs — opportunities to gain skills and widen horizons, as well as introducing young people to other ways of life, attitudes and beliefs, which will stand them in good stead in a global world. A downside is cost, and for some young people, being far from home.

Many jobs demand a university degree of some kind — sometimes even postgraduate study, although some organisations like EY have removed degrees as a barrier to entry, recognising candidates gain skills from many sources.  

6. Joining a family business

If your family has one, working in a family business may give a young person a running start in the working world. They can practice new skills under the critical but sympathetic eye of family, and will perhaps be more receptive to feedback. This may lead them to pursue a career within the business or elsewhere in the same industry.


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Jack Flanagan
  • Jack Flanagan

About the author

Jack Flanagan writes for regional and national titles on business and an eclectic range of subjects. He is based between Berlin and London.