The Praxis team are big advocates of developing your own paper trail early in life (here, here, here, here, and here). Having some kind of paper trail allows people to make quick decisions about your skills, your forward-tilt, and your ability to get stuff done. We’ve had Praxis participants hired by their business partners solely based on their ability to have a paper trail.
Building your paper trail is a great way to jumpstart your career, make it easy for others to see the value you can create, and set you apart from your peers.
This is even more important if you are an ambitious young person coming out of high school. Having some kind of paper trail (mostly just blog posts and a series of letters to the editor) when I graduated was a huge boon to my career and helped me build instant social capital and rapport with people before I had even met them.
In fact, many of the personal and professional connections I have today came about because of one blog post I had written that was picked up by a few major outlets when I was 16. I was invited to a weekend seminar where I met Antony Davies (who now works with us at Praxis on a number of projects), and who then introduced me to the Foundation for Economic Education. It was at a FEE seminar that I met our Founder and CEO Isaac Morehouse — well before Praxis was even a thing.
The importance of this paper trail goes doubly if you are even interested in any industries that are product-driven (rather than service-driven), especially highly competitive ones like video games, film, audio/music production, and software. During a conversation last night with some local homeschool families, I met a young man who was interested in both film and video game production. Knowing that a lot of young people are interested in these areas, I asked him if he had created anything in this space.
Thankfully, he actually had!
By already creating videos and small productions, this young man had set himself above and beyond 75% of his competition, including many college graduates from creative programs.
This means he will be able to go to a founder or a hiring manager at a company that he wants to work with and when they ask, “what can you do?” he can pull out a portfolio of work already. Very few people can do this. Can you imagine what this portfolio will look like at 22 if he keeps on this path?
When somebody hires you to work with them, they want to know that you’ll be able to create value quickly for their company. If you can talk about how smart you are and all the things you know, that’s great, but that’s not the best indicator that you will be able to create value for them. If you can show examples of already having created value — even in your own self-directed time — that’s something that can assuage most concerns about hiring a young person.
A lot of people put off building this portfolio until they are in college. They believe, usually falsely, that college will be the place where they’ll have the opportunity to put together these portfolios and do real work. Instead, they’re caught up in mandatory Underwater Basketweaving Classes and spending their free time on assignments about the history of Underwater Basketweaving instead of pursuing their passion in film, video game, design, art, business, or software.
Then, they wait to put it off until after college. But now you have bills to pay, you have student loans to pay back, and a job to work. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life at this point to keep building this portfolio for many — especially if the day job isn’t directly connected to the portfolio.
If you are in high school, start now. Your life is essentially subsidized largely by your parents, even if they make you pay for everything except rent. School is a distraction if your interests lie outside of it, so get it finished with and then go home or go to work and get cracking. If you have even a thin portfolio developed at age 18, you’ll have set yourself above even the best of college grads.
We’ve had Praxis participants land jobs most college grads with 3+ years of experience can’t get because the participants developed a portfolio. Why wouldn’t you start?
If you want to get started on building your portfolio today, land a job you love, and jumpstart your career and life, apply to Praxis.