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How to Find Career Success as a High School Dropout

Dropping out does not mean you can’t have a good career. Here’s everything you need to know about how to start a successful career as a high school dropout.

In 2017, the high school dropout rate was about 6%. That means there are tens of millions of people, just like you, trying to start a career without a degree. Believe it or not, it is possible to find personal and financial success after dropping out of high school.

But where do you start? Those without high school degrees earn about half of the national average. Without the right decisions, you could be trapped in dead-end, low-paying jobs for the foreseeable future.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on and discover some popular ways to launch a successful career as a high school dropout.

1. Master the Art of Job Searching

Landing an interview isn’t easy even for those with degrees. But the barrier is raised for those without. There’s a stigma attached to applicants who have no proof of education.

That means you need to master the art of the job search. From cover letters to interviews, you must impress just to get your foot in the door. You also have to contend with applicants who learned some job search advice from either high school or college.

But the fact that you’re reading this is proof enough that you can rise to the task. As a whole, searching for a job is too complex to address in this article. However, some basic information is provided below.

Your resume is a crucial component to stand out from the crowd. Thankfully, most resumes don’t put a huge focus on education. Highlight your work experience, and if you don’t have any, turn to this article for more advice.

Just as important is a customized cover letter — if you must include one. Do not use the same cover letter for every job application. Employers can tell, and it can minimize your chances of success.

During the interview process, bring pre-prepared questions and be sociable. Always answer any questions with concrete examples when possible, as proof of your experience.

2. Get a General Equivalency Diploma

Just because you dropped out of high school doesn’t mean you can’t return. You can earn a general equivalency diploma (GED), or take a similar exam such as a HiSET or TASC. Earning a GED can open doors for you, making military enlistment possible, and improving your odds of success during your job search.

These exams all test your knowledge of high school material, such as math, science, and reading. Even if you’re caught up on high school material, you should still prepare before taking one of these exams. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away.

Need help? These tests can help prepare you for any of the major high school equivalency exams.

3. Try a Community College

People drop out of high school for many reasons. Maybe you had an issue at home that prevented your ability to attend school. Or, at the time, you weren’t fond of a learning environment.

People can change. Community college is a great choice for college dropouts who want to earn an advanced degree. Although some colleges require a GED or high school diploma, most public colleges do not.

They’re also much more affordable than private schools. With two years of classes, you’ll be eligible to earn an associate’s degree and qualify for new occupations. Financial aid is available for those in need, so community college may be more accessible than you might think.

4. Attend a Trade School

Trade schools are one of the best paths available for high school dropouts. While a GED is usually required, you can instead take an ATB test. This tends to be an easier exam than a GED.

With access to a technical school, you can learn a trade. Many of these jobs pay as much as those that require bachelor’s degrees. A trade job may be an electrician, plumber, or construction worker.

Although they aren’t glamorous, they pay extremely well. There’s less focus on bookwork and a heavy emphasis on using your hands. If you’re looking for more education but don’t like the traditional path, this is the choice for you.

5. Apply for the Service Sector

One-third of dropouts work in the service industry. It’s a great place to get started in your career while you figure things out and expand your resume. Since it’s a common choice for those without school credentials, you won’t be stigmatized against.

The service sector includes things like restaurants, retail stores, and movie theaters. Pay for these positions has increased in recent years. Some employers, such as Walmart, pay their full-time employees nearly $15 an hour.

There is a small amount of mobility, too. If you stay long enough, you could become the manager of a store or the entire region.

6. Start a Business as a High School Dropout

You don’t need a high school diploma to make a thriving business. In fact, high school dropouts are almost twice as likely to start their own business.

And why shouldn’t you?

Maybe you have a unique skill or vision that you can monetize. If you create products, consider starting off with an online store such as Etsy. Or, if you’re providing a service, you could create a landscaping or dog-walking company.

The lack of a diploma will have little impact, if any, on the success of your business. Take this time to throw yourself out there and show the world what you’re made of.

Take Control of Your Career

A career isn’t just for those with college degrees. You can build a successful career even as a high school dropout. The path is more difficult, yes, but possible all the same.

Figure out your dream goals to decide on a direction. Maybe you’re concerned with a salary, in which case a trade school is a great choice. But if you have a passion for something that requires a college degree, maybe it’s time to give school another chance.

Still looking for ways to build a career? Check out the rest of our website to find more advice for job seekers.

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