3. Plan on a backup career.

Another advantage of looking to local trade and technical schools is that it prepares you for more career options should your original plans fail. As many people have learned during the current economic struggles, careers are not always certain, no matter how good you are. The more skills you have under your belt, the more attractive you are to an employer and the better your chances of finding a fallback position. As Rick Davis, an executive with Spirit AeroSystems quipped at the conference, “I make it a point to make coffee at least once a day so that I have a marketable job skill.”

4. Develop entrepreneurial skills early.

Several of the CEOs of large corporations represented at the summit bemoaned the fact that many people were entering the job market with little or no idea of how businesses ran or of the cost of doing business. “Where is the kid with the corner lemonade stand or the summer lawn service?” one of these business titans bewailed. Even such simple jobs teach the value of a dollar and the realities of cost and profit. Fortunately, homeschooled students are in a prime position to initiate those kinds of creative, successful endeavors. The flexibility of homeschooling makes it easier for a teenager to work a job, compared to his traditionally schooled counterparts. In addition, according to the TOS Magazine Reader Survey 2007, of the nearly 5,000 homeschooled families who responded, roughly 15% of homeschooled children are either involved in their family’s home-based business or own their own businesses.3

5. Improve your communication skills.

If you survey the jobs section of most newspapers or websites, you will soon realize the importance of good communication skills. Oral and written communication skills are a must for those who work with the public or who are seeking higher-level management positions. Unfortunately, these qualifications are becoming more and more rare. As Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation, complained, “This generation knows how to ‘tweet,’ but they don’t know how to look you in the eye and talk to you.”

Fortunately, homeschooled students tend to score much higher in these areas than others do,4 primarily because they tend to communicate on an adult level earlier and more often. Parents can enhance their students’ communication skills with solid language arts and rhetoric programs and the inclusion of strong vocabulary and writing elements in curricula. These efforts will more than pay off in the long run.

6. Develop logic and critical-thinking skills.

Another common theme among business leaders is the desire to hire employees who demonstrate strong logic and critical-thinking skills. The typical employee, they said, can push a button but has a hard time recognizing when a problem exists and knowing how to troubleshoot it. Also, as Dr. Bill Carver, President of NashCommunity College, pointed out, “So many students are so used to multiple choice questions, that they have trouble making connections between things in the real workplace.”

These skills are so important that many pre-employment tests are now testing such elements to help determine fitness for a position. Fortunately, a wealth of traditional and homeschool-specific books that address issues such as logic, critical thinking, and problem solving is available. Some games (computer, video, and board games) also help develop skills in this area. (“Professor Layton and the Curious Village” is one of my video game favorites). When buying gifts for your children, it may be a good idea to look for books and games that develop these skills.

7. Hone computer skills.