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Tips for Teens: How to Find Your First Real Job
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
So, you want to find a job? Maybe you're tired of begging your folks for money, or perhaps you're saving up for a car or college. Could be your family has been hit by a layoff and you want to do your part by contributing to the family income stream.
Whatever your reasons for wanting a job, this article will take you through the steps to how to find your first real job -- whether that's a summer job or a part-time after-school position.
Here are the 10 steps to finding your first job.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 1: Gather the Necessary Information.You'll need your social security card (not just your number) and a driver's license, passport, or photo identification. Depending on your age and your state, you may need other items, such as a work permit (which needs to be signed by a parent or guardian). Check with your school's guidance counselor about the information you'll need.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 2: Put Together a Resume.Most teen job openings do not require a resume -- and most other teen job-seekers won't even have a resume. So why prepare a resume if one is not needed? Job-hunting is all about perceptions and standing out from the crowd -- and presenting a nicely formatted resume to prospective employers can give your application an edge. For help with creating a resume, see our Teen Resume Writing Worksheet.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 3: Plan Your Wardrobe.Time to ditch the trendy clothing and find (or purchase) a few nice -- and conservative -- outfits you can wear when applying and interviewing for jobs. Dress for success for teens is not as formal as for adults, but looking the part -- and making a good first impression with a hiring manager -- is essential to getting a job.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 4: Develop a Job-Search Strategy.Conduct a little research to help you determine the best type of jobs for you. Typical teen jobs can be found working at fast food joints, grocery stores and other retailers, childcare facilities, community programs and camps, resorts and hotels, and business offices -- but you don't have to be limited to those typical teen jobs (such as clerk, burger flipper, lifeguard, childcare worker, camp counselor, or cashier), as you can also try to find a job related to a career interest (such as working in a veterinary clinic or hospital if you have a passion for helping animals).
Teen Job-Hunting Step 5: Practice Your Pitch.One of the keys to success for any job-seeker is being able to clearly articulate why you are the best candidate for a job. And for teens, you need to be able to say why you are not only the best teen for the job, but also why you are better than others who may be applying for the position (such as college students and retirees). You may also want to practice completing a sample job application so that you know exactly what to expect. You can also consider reading my article, A Job-Seeker's Guide to Successfully Completing Job Applications.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 6: Spread the Word.In most cases, for teen jobs, nothing beats pounding the pavement and hitting the mall or fast food restaurants. Still, you should also enlist the help of adult family and friends -- especially if you are seeking a job that does not typically go to a teenager. You still have to apply and interview for the job, but having an adult put in a good word for you can go a long way to helping you get the job. (This technique is called networking -- the most powerful tool for finding a new job. Learn more about networking.)
Teen Job-Hunting Step 7: Apply and Interview for Jobs.Now that you have your resume, pitch, and job-search plan, it's time to hit all the places where you would like to work. Start early each day, bringing along all your materials, and apply to as many places as you like. Always wear appropriate (meaning conservative) clothing when applying for jobs because you never know when the manager might be there and want to interview you on the spot -- and always be polite (including using "please" and "thank you." You may also want to consider removing excess piercings and jewelry, as well as focus on good grooming and hygiene. In the interview, remember to smile, maintain good eye contact, be confident, and tell how you will be a good employee. For more expert tips, see our tutorial, Job Interviewing Tutorial for High School Students, Teen and Entry-Level Job-Seekers. For even more job interviewing tools, see our Job Interviewing Resources for Job-Seekers section.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 8: Be Prepared for Competition -- and Rejection.You may face a lot of competition -- and not just from other teens. College students and retired folks returning to the workforce have taken many jobs that traditionally went to teens. Job openings may not be as plentiful as in the past, so start your job-search with an open mind -- all the while knowing that you'll get a high percentage of rejections. There are no job guarantees (unless your family owns the company).
Teen Job-Hunting Step 9: Complete Follow-Up and Thank-You Notes.Once you've applied for a job, keep following up on the status of your application. Be professional and ask each employer if they have all the information they need to make a decision about your application. Always send a thank-you note after each job interview; the thank-you itself won't get you the job, but it may be just enough to push your application to the top of the pile. See our FAQs About Thank-You Letters.
Teen Job-Hunting Step 10: Get and Accept the Job Offer -- and Make a Plan to Shine.After the applications and the interviews, ideally you'll be offered at least one job. Assuming the job is something you want to do -- and can do -- then accept the offer. Starting with your first day on the job, be committed to being one of the best employees at work -- striving to always do your best, including showing up on time and leaving only when your shift is over. Find some great tips for making a good first impression in our article, Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression.
Final Thoughts on Teens Landing Your First JobFinding and obtaining your first real job is a rite of passage for most teens. It's an exciting and scary experience, but one that will serve you well -- both for the money you earn and for the lessons you learn.
One final piece of advice. If you really want a job, you will need to be persistant. Always ask if the manager is available when you go to complete a job application and/or drop off your resume. If the manager is not available, ask when he or she might be later in the day or week. Keep following up until you are told there are no positions or that they are not interested in hiring you.
Think you're ready? Take our Teen Job-Search Readiness Quiz and find out!
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Find additional resources for teen job-seekers here: Job and Career Resources for Teenagers: Including Tools for Younger and Older Teens.
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