Graduating from high school or college is an extremely exciting time that can lead to brand new experiences that can help foster your future in many different ways. However, it can also be nerve-wracking, particularly if you are anxious about your ability to find a decent job right after graduation. The best way to get a jump start on your career is by networking regularly with potentially useful people and by putting together a resume that is accurate and fits the requirements of your ideal career. Here are some tips to get you started on the right track.

Use volunteer work to add to your resume

If you are just graduating high school, you may not have that much to put on your resume. This does not mean that the standard resume-crafting tips do not apply, though! If your resume is less than packed, it’s up to you to find a way to fill it. Most frequently, that avenue comes through volunteer work. While it is awesome to find volunteer work that is actually in the field you’d like to join, the specific characteristics of your volunteering matter less than the fact that you volunteer at all, and do it well. Volunteering provides experience in hands-on activities, and – particularly with nonprofits – can put you in a position to have a lot of responsibility once you have gotten your feet wet. It can also give you an opportunity to explore fields you may not have known existed before. Many people have found their dream jobs in fields they were not previously aware of through volunteer work.

For college students, the same sort of benefit can come from professional internships, which allow you to dive deeper into the world of your potential career and experience what it is like to actually follow that path full-time.  Finally, and potentially most importantly, volunteering and interning can help you form a useful network of friends and colleagues. Not only will this provide you with good references when you are going through the interview process, it can also help you get an interview in the first place, thanks to the nature of networking. Also, interning at a company often makes it much easier to get hired at a particular company after the completion of your internship, since the staff will already be familiar with you and your abilities. When including volunteer work and internships on your resume, phrase descriptions in such a way as to relate back to the job you want.

If you want additional support for your resume, you may want to try starting your own business, which provides the flexibility you need alongside extra experience — and some extra money to put toward school. Drop-shipping, for instance, is low-risk, with little to no overhead and can be a great way to dip your toe in the water and get an up-close view of how business works. Just be sure to research thoroughly before making any decisions. You don’t want to waste too much time or money on a venture that won’t provide a return financially or career-wise.

Start networking early

For less outgoing people, networking may seem challenging. However, there is no reason why you cannot become a successful networker. Networking is all about presentation and confidence, and most people get better with practice. Don’t feel like you have to start by going to large-scale networking events.  Instead, begin by developing the relationships that are right in front of you. Teachers, professors, and even friends of your parents can be great references. They can also become good mentors, helping you to navigate the business world and giving you tips on how to succeed. As you gain more experience, branch out. One of the central values of networking is in its ability to provide you with a diverse circle of acquaintance to draw from when you need advice, references, or just a particular kind of expertise.

As you start to delve into the more professional side of networking, practice your self-presentation by dressing well, remembering people’s names, and by not getting too caught up in the minutia of small talk. Remembering people’s names, in particular, is valuable because it shows that you are really engaged in the conversation, even if it only lasts for a minute.

The key to getting into a career is successfully communicating with others and presenting yourself in an approachable, professional manner. No matter how young you are, you can start developing your skills by volunteering, interning, and networking with people near you.