Do you know that many people continue to work long after they no longer financially need to do so? That even some people who by birth or by circumstance never “had” to be employed still seek out interesting and meaningful work? Work can be a fulfilling aspect of our lives, and for most of us it is essential to our survival as well.
You must have resources to live on your own, and by now you probably realize this most likely means getting a job, starting your own business, or developing your career. Even while going to college full-time, countless numbers of students must also work at least part-time. At some point, most of us seek employment, and the following information will help you reach your goal of being successfully employed.
Job Search Success
Presenting yourself at your best is important in all aspects of your employment, but it is critical to your success in seeking a job. From filling out a neat and complete employment application form to sending a thank you note after an interview, you must present yourself in a manner that gives you an edge over your competition. Like it or not, you will be evaluated by the way you handle the process. Try to make a good impression every step of the way.
Organizing for the Job
If you are under eighteen, you may need to acquire a work permit. Your guidance counselor at school should be able to help you. You can also call your local Labor Department.
You will need three people who are willing to act as references for you. They should not be family members. Make sure you ask permission to include their names, addresses, and phone numbers on your employment application or resume. Needless to say, you want to choose someone who you are sure will respond favorably if questioned about you.
Even if you’re looking for your first real job, you may already have some work experience. Have you done volunteer work for a church or community organization? Have you baby-sat for your neighbors or performed yard work? Anyone you have worked for may be a good person to approach for a reference, along with members of the clergy, teachers, or family friends who know you well.
If you are looking for your first job, it is appropriate to prepare a resume with references. If you have an employment history, it is not necessary to include the references in your resume; but have a list of them ready and with you at an interview in case it is requested.
Presenting yourself at your best is important in all aspects of your employment, but it is critical to your success in seeking a job. From filling out a neat and complete employment application form to sending a thank-you note after an interview, you must present yourself in a manner that gives you an edge over your competition. Like it or not, you will be evaluated by the way you handle the process. Try to make a good impression every step of the way.
Even if the job you are applying for does not require you to submit a resume, it is a good idea to prepare one so you will have all the necessary information with you. Your resume should look as professional as possible, so be sure it is printed on plain white paper. Do not use notebook paper or creative stationery. Your school or local library will have books on how to write an appropriate resume.
The more positive information you acquire to add to your resume, the more sophisticated your resume should become. In addition to being completely accurate, easy to read, and concise, it should also reflect a high standard of presentation.
A common resume format is reverse-chronological, in which you list your most recent employment experience and work backward through your education and work history. A skills-based resume emphasizes what you can do and what your qualifications are.
No matter which format you decide to use, make sure the resume emphasizes your strong points and is written in an active tone, using action verbs such as arranged, organized, tutored, and so forth.
Study samples in resume-writing guidebooks. Your resume is the tool you create to market yourself. Work with your resume until it is as good as it can be and reflects you at your best.
Here is guideline information for a first-time basic resume:
City, state and zip code
Last grade completed and where Achievements and awardsAny work experience Areas of interest or classes you have taken that relate to the position for which you are applying. Also, list any organizations in which you have been active.
References: Names, addresses, and phone numbers. If you have listed work experience, have the references listed on a separate sheet and present them when asked.
Hint: Remember to proofread and check your spelling. Then have someone else double-check your work.
If you are looking for your first job, it may be appropriate to prepare a resume with references. If you have an employment history, it is not necessary to include the references in your resume; but have them ready and with you at an interview in case they are requested.
Chances are good that you will have had some other work experience before you actually find the job that financially allows you to live on your own. Deciding what kind of job or career you want can take time and patience. Thankfully, there are many resources available to you if you need help making your decision. Check with schools and college-career counseling centers in your area.
- If you are starting to look for your first job, have an idea of the type of job you want to apply for. Try to find a job that complements your interests and abilities. For instance, if you enjoy swimming, you might apply for a position as a lifeguard at your local community pool or YMCA. Discuss your plans with your parents or guardians. They may have some ideas about where you should and should not apply for work. Get the word out to relatives and family friends that you are looking for employment. Perhaps you will get a solid lead to follow or a suggestion that you have not thought of. School counselors may provide job leads.
- If you already have the education and/or experience to apply for your “ideal” job, your job search will be more sophisticated, as will your resume and your interview techniques. Be prepared to discuss your particular strengths and what you can offer. In addition, you can help yourself out by doing as much research as you can about the company to which you are applying. If applicable, review the company’s website and annual report, as well as any articles that have been written about the company.
- Check the “help wanted” section of your local paper. An ad may direct you to call or write. If you call regarding an ad, you should identify yourself and state why you are calling. Make sure you answer all questions in complete sentences.
Your written request for a job interview is typically called a cover letter when you include a copy of your resume. With or without a resume, a letter used to initiate communication with a potential employer should be neat and demonstrate competence. Your letter should be about one page.
- Try to limit your letter to three paragraphs. Introduce yourself and tell how you heard about the job opening in the first paragraph. The second paragraph should highlight specific qualifications and skills you can offer. Close with a third paragraph requesting an interview.
The Internet is a terrific resource for information designed to help you decide what educational and career options are right for you. You may want to check out:
- The ACT Student Web: www.actstudent.org
- Adventures in Education: www.adventuresineducation.org
- Career One Stop: www.careeronestop.org
- Career Path: www.careerpath.com
- Get That Gig: www.getthatgig.com
- Mapping Your Future: www.mappingyourfuture.org
- My Future: www.myfuture.com
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: www.stats.bls.gov/k12
For help with an advanced job search you may want to visit:
- Career Builder: www.careerbuilder.com
- Career Cast: www.careercast.com
- Career Lab: www.careerlab.com
- College Recruiter: www.collegerecruiter.com
- Indeed: www.indeed.com
- Job Bank Info: www.jobbankinfo.org
- Monster Trak: www.monstertrak.com
- Job Hunt: www.job-hunt.org
- Riley Guide: www.rileyguide.com
- Snagajob: www.snagajob.com
Use this example to help you construct your own cover letter:
City, state, and zip code
Month, date, and year
Contact person’s name –Mr. or Ms.– and correct title
(Example: Ms. Jane Doe, Manager)
Name of the company (Example: Ezings Pizza and Pasta)
Street address or P.O. Box
City, state, and zip code
Dear Ms. Doe:
In response to your advertisement in the Jan. 7, 2014, edition of the San Pedro News Pilot, I would like to be considered for the position of Counter Person.
I am 17 years old and a junior at San Pedro High School. I am an honor student and I have been recognized by my instructors as being a dependable and hardworking person. I always strive to do my best.
I would like to meet you to discuss my capabilities as they apply to the position with Ezings Pizza and Pasta. I appreciate your time and consideration.
Your first and last name
For many positions, such as retail sales or working at large grocery stores, you can walk in any time and request an application which you can complete there; or take home, fill out, and return another time. Even if you are just picking up an application, look presentable.
- Do not go anywhere to apply for a job or to an interview without having a pen with you. Make sure you use black or blue ink.
- Neatness, spelling, grammar, and good penmanship are essential.
- Answer every question on the form completely and correctly. When you are finished, check over the application to make sure you have not left any spaces blank. This shows that you have read the application thoroughly. Write N/A for not applicable if a question does not apply to you.
- Many applications ask for salary requirements. You may wish to write “open.” This leaves room for a later salary discussion and possible negotiation.
Hint: It is a good idea to ask to see a job description for the position you are applying for. You do not want to commit yourself to a job if you are not fully aware of exactly what it entails.
You Have an Interview
Whether you are facing your first job interview or have a couple behind you, here are a few pointers to help you navigate the interview process. Plan ahead for the interview. Arrive a few minutes early with a couple of black or blue ink pens and be prepared for basic questions you might be asked.
Although there are hundreds of possible questions an interviewer may throw out to you, what they are most likely trying to find out is how dependable you are, if you’re a hard worker, if you are easy to get along with, and what kind of skills, if any, you can bring to the job.
Keep those things in mind as you frame your answers to the questions you are asked. Think ahead how you would answer the questions “Tell me about yourself” or “What are your greatest strengths?”
Once you are fortunate enough to get an interview, remember only a true emergency should keep you from showing up at the scheduled appointment on time. Excuses like, “I couldn’t make it because the friend who was going to give me a ride was waiting for her brother,” etc., will only help a potential employer decide you are not the candidate for the job.
Sometimes you may be asked to call or return several times before you are told whether or not you have the job. Don’t give up, and be sure you follow up, since this may be a test to see how dependable you are and how well you follow instructions.
During your interview, remember attitude is everything. It’s why an employer may hire you instead of someone who is just as smart or just as qualified. The proper attitude shows that you are positive and eager to please.
It’s caring enough not only to be on time, but to arrive several minutes early. It’s wanting the job badly enough to make a good impression. Your clothes should be clean, pressed, and appropriate.
Dress Code for Interview
Try to dress slightly more formally than what is worn in the organization at the level you are applying for. Men: Tuck in your shirt and put on a tie. Women: Dress conservatively. Don’t wear faded or torn jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, or shorts. Nails need to be neat. Shoes should be shined. Every part of you needs to be clean and look well-groomed and well put together. You are projecting how you feel about yourself by the way you dress and present yourself.
It may seem hard to appear relaxed yet energetic at the same time, but you can do it.
- Greet your interviewer properly:
- Introduce yourself by using both your first and last names.
- Extend a greeting (such as “thank you for seeing me”).
- Shake hands correctly.
- Use direct eye contact.
- Watch your posture.
- Maintain good direct eye contact during your interview. This indicates you are focused and interested. Do not stare; just appear to be listening and friendly.
- Sit when you are instructed to do so. Don’t slump, fidget, play with your hands, cross your legs, or tap your feet. Just sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Be mindful not to interrupt.
- Answer all questions completely and honestly. Don’t say you have experience if you do not. Don’t say you know how to do something if you know you don’t. Never lie. Answer all questions in complete sentences. This will help to keep you from appearing indifferent.
- Show interest! During the interview you may wish to ask questions such as:
- “What would my duties be during a typical workday?”
- “Will I be working with others or by myself?”
- “What type of promotions are available from the position?”
- Try to emphasize your dependability and your willingness to work hard.
- Discuss your strengths, skills, and accomplishments, not how much money you want. Let the interviewer bring up salary, even if it’s approached in a subsequent interview.
- When the interview is over, make sure you smile, shake hands again, and say “thank you.” Immediately after the interview write and send, via e-mail or postal mail, a short, well-written letter thanking the interviewer for the time given you and restating your interest in the position. This is an additional opportunity to impress the interviewer and to project the positive attitude employers are looking for.
“Hi” or “Hey”
“Bye” or “See ya”
“Okay” or “Yeah”
Avoid: “Uh,” “cool,” “like,” “um,” “you know,” “awesome.”
- Talk to the floor
- Check your watch
- Chew gum
- Crack your knuckles
- Fiddle with your hair
- Play with your hands, cuticles, ring, necklace, and so on.
You Got the Job
A major part of your life will be spent working. Your job will be important to you on many levels, and hopefully it will give you the financial support you need. Yet, the satisfaction that you can obtain from enjoying your job and performing it well may mean just as much to you as the financial rewards it offers.
You show a great deal about who you are in your approach to your work. Demonstrate that you respect yourself enough to honor your commitment to your job. Be willing to give it your best. Be willing to work. Be happy to be useful. Make sure you are never late. Being late must never be more than a rare occurrence. Show that you are both dependable and responsible.
- Be courteous. Are you pleasant to work with? Are your co-workers happy to spend time with you? Look carefully at your behavior in the workplace. Employers want employees who can get along with everyone and are cheerful to be around. Never put people down in front of others. Do not engage in mean gossip or allow others to gossip to you. Keep your promises and your confidences.
- Find out about the dress code before you begin your new job and make sure you continue to dress appropriately. Suggestive or revealing clothes are not for the workplace. Dress the way the person responsible for your promotions expects you to dress.
- When you are new to the workplace, you may find that you need to adjust how you manage your time. Develop the habit of planning ahead; for instance, make sure your work clothes are clean and that you have gas in your car. You may find you need to change a few old habits, like staying out late on a work night, or that you need to start a few new routines, such as using a daily planner to keep track of things you need to remember. Take the necessary actions to remain organized and to adjust to your new responsibilities.
- Make it a habit to think before you speak. Communicate as clearly as you can and always speak with respect.
- Develop your listening skills. Being a good listener can greatly contribute to your on-the-job success.
- Approach every job and job challenge as an opportunity to increase your skills.
- Whatever your job, remember that there is dignity in work, and great satisfaction can be gained from knowing you do your particular job well and give your best.
The Value of Networking
We are all connected to each other. The way we treat each other matters. There is an old saying: You never know to whom you are talking. Not only does this apply to being careful of what you say to whom, but it is very true about people and their connections. Making a good impression on someone, projecting competence, and being thought of favorably may be a huge asset to your long-term plans. Perhaps you will someday be in business for yourself and the contacts you make now will be beneficial to you. Perhaps the friend of an acquaintance will some day be just the person with the experience you need to give you expert advice.
We grow as individuals when we keep an expanding circle of acquaintances. Your genuine interest in others and a natural kindness to everyone has its own rewards.
Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You”ll Love to Do by Shoya Zichy and Ann Bidou. AMACOM, 2007.
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieges. 4th ed. Little, Brown and Co., 2007.
The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide: How to Find a Rewarding Job Even When “There Are No Jobs” by Richard Nelson Bolles. Ten Speed Press, 2009.
Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010.
Now What? The Young Person’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career by Nicholas Lore. Fireside, 2008.
The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore. Rev. ed. Touchstone, 2012.
What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles. Ten Speed Press. An annual publication.