Teens can’t be left out of today’s job marketby Ken Whiting on Nov. 26, 2008, under Edge, Family, Opinion
In today’s turbulent economic climate, I can think of only one positive element for businesses: the ability to find employees.
A sagging economy and growing unemployment rates have teens facing increased competition from adults for the jobs once reserved for them. When combined with the fact that employers are slow to add new positions, it’s tough out there for a teen or young adult to find employment.
This can be a great opportunity for the next generation to learn the value of a job and workplace readiness skills.
While teens have become accustomed to employment choices, entry-level jobs have not been valued or viewed as an integral part of the pathway to a successful career. Often these part-time positions have been taken for granted. Today’s competitive job market can provide lessons for a lifetime.
I believe the workplace is a vital “spoke in the wheel” in the growth and development of a teenager or young adult. Responsibility, money, time management, teamwork, communication and simple life readiness skills – such as following instructions, respecting authority, making eye contact and smiling – are developed on the job.
Besides the personal development provided through working, today there is more pressure for teens to carry weight financially. Many need to work to help support the obligations of their family or to maintain their own consumer lifestyle.
So while the job search may be difficult, it’s not impossible. Rather than give up, teens and young adults should consider the following tips to land that next job:
• Pursue your passion: There are jobs available outside fast-food restaurants, mall retail and amusement parks. If you love animals, apply to every veterinary clinic in your area, even if they aren’t hiring.
• Work where you shop: Talk with the manager at your favorite coffee or clothing store or bookshop. If they know you as someone who understands their product and environment, you’ll have a greater chance for consideration.
• Cast a wide net: Don’t just focus on personal interest jobs. Apply everywhere.
• Under 16: Labor laws make it difficult for an employer to hire individuals younger than 16. Baby-sitting, yard work, dog walking and paper routes are still options. Remember to leave these jobs with a letter of recommendation.
• Ask friends if they can recruit new employees: If a company has an internal recruitment program, they are more apt to pay attention to the applicants their current employees refer.
• Use the Internet: There are local Internet-based employment sites that focus on teen and entry-level jobs. Apply to them all, and then make a personal visit to the business. It’s easy for an employer to be inundated with applications. Show initiative by following up with a personal visit.
• Ask: Check with your parents, your parents’ friends and any other adults you know, about who they know that is hiring.
• Letters from past employers, teachers, pastors, coaches, community adults: A letter from an adult that addresses your attitude, reliability and performance will move you to the top of a stack of applications. Collect them and submit them when you apply. You need to stand out in a crowded pool of applicants.
Don’t be discouraged. If you are told “no,” stay positive and keep applying. That may be the biggest life lesson a teen can learn.
Little things make a big difference to employers. If you get an interview, show up on time and be well dressed. More than anything, employers value good written and spoken communication, eye contact, a smile, appearance, a positive attitude and an ability to work well with others. Don’t blame a lack of work experience for not getting hired, if you are not demonstrating these attributes.
Teenagers often get very little advice about getting a job. There was a time when parents, teachers and school advisers made this a priority and promoted the significance of basic work ethics. All jobs have value and can be leveraged to better positions. Hopefully the tight labor market will teach teens that valuable life lesson.
Ken Whiting is an industry expert on providing solutions for entry-level workforce challenges. His WAVES for Success program teaches companies what inspires young adults and teens to participate, contribute and excel at work. He is also author of, “WAVES for Teenage Workforce Success.” E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org