If you are like me, you are at a time in your life where adulthood is fast approaching. For as long as you can remember you have had an inclination towards work with children, but maybe you are not sure if pursuing a career in youth service is right for you. 

Maybe you are capable of building healthy lasting relationships with children, and even enjoy the work to maintain those relationships. However, is that enough to know that youth service is right for you? Where do you go and how do you begin the process of narrowing down your career path? 

Entering adulthood is like going hiking for the first time. It can be tiring and sometimes you may trip, stumble, or even fall. But with the proper preparation, and a will to keep moving forward, you can learn to enjoy the journey, even appreciating the struggles, as you navigate the unknown.

Below are a few tips that helped me as I navigated my own way through making important decisions and contemplating a career in youth service.

  • Volunteer with youth programs in your community. Volunteering for programs that specialize in supporting healthy childhood is a great way to figure out if you have the interest, passion and capacity to work with children as a career. Bonus – you will also make an impact on children in your community! Here are some of our favorite places to volunteer in the Metro East. 
  • Take up tutoring or caring for a child. Tutoring and babysitting can be a great way to increase disposable income while you are in school and will also help you understand children’s development and build the skills to work with diverse children. Check out websites such as or work with your local school district or PTO to connect directly with a family seeking services.
  • Volunteer as a youth mentor. Mentoring a child is an effective way to gauge your interest in youth service. It can be an extremely rewarding experience to see that your consistent presence can have a profound and meaningful impact on a child. To take the first step, you can look into working with youth mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, or even opportunities to coach a sports team or assist with your local scouting group.

Deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life can be overwhelming – take it from me! To do it successfully requires knowing yourself, getting hands on experience and thoughtful consideration. The first step is often one of the hardest, but with opportunities all around you, the answer is not far away.

Written by Ma’Kayla Goins. Ma’Kayla is an intern at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois and a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying to obtain her bachelors  degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology. 

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