Don’t bother if you’ve never had a job. Pastor, teacher, neighbor…don’t care about their opinion if I don’t know them personally. We (most business owners) can spot biased/bullshit references (even if they hire you). These work against you.
If you want a reference from a present or former employer, pay her back with a nice gesture. She doesn’t owe you a reference. Give her an updated resume and personal statement so she can catch up with your present character and vision. The more effort you put into updating your resume and personal statement, the more likely she’ll write a convincing reference, a reference full of examples of your competence. People want to help you. But you have to show you’re worthy of their time.
These are important to me and *some* business owners and hiring managers. Participation in anything competitive shapes character. Football, for instance, is often a story about courage, how a smaller player gets up repeatedly to face bigger, faster, and stronger adversary. Solo music competitions train participants to perform under pressure and spotlight, to conquer fear of failure. Same with theater. So list extra curricular activities. Not too many, or they may think you’re a dilettante or superficial. Focus on becoming good at a few. Be really good at one hobby. It’ll help people remember you. It’ll show you’re able to focus on a task. You’ll probably learn more playing baseball than in Spanish class.
If you haven’t done well in your extra curricular activities — bit parts in theater, benchwarmer on last place team — that will hurt you. At least with me. I’m all for failure — children need to grow accustomed to failing — but losing can become a habit. There’s a difference between failing and losing. Those who consistently finish last (or close to last) usually have low standards that are in conflict with high parental expectations. (Result of inflated self-esteem, where parents tell children they’re wonderful and can be anything they want, but don’t provide them with enough painful experiences to prepare them to become what they want to be).
Most teens stop learning in school at around 8th grade. That ok. Those of you who have a 2.0 gpa, don’t fret. Anyone who tells you you’re stupid because of your grades (you probably are stupid, but for other reasons), knock him down. Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Marco Pierre White, Benjamin Franklin, none of them have high school degrees. All began working before teenage years. They did most of their learning at work. They worked with focus, perseverance and alacrity.
If you’re a 4.0gpa student, you’re not smart and stop talking to anyone who tells you you are, even if they’re your parents. Bill Gates, who was the top math student at the top high school in the Pacific Northwest (Lakeside) was convinced of his brilliance. Until he got to Harvard. Now he considers himself above-average in intelligence. If he’s merely above-average — 1590 (out of 1600) on his SATs — then what are you? Be humble. Always compare yourself to the best. You don’t need to be the best, but you need to grade yourself fairly.
Don’t allow yourself to treat your childhood, especially teenage years, as delay of adulthood. Childhood is training for adulthood and adulthood can begin at any age. Age 9, 60, never, it’s up to you.