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Work & School It's not personal, it's professional!

Dec. 12, 2018
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The first step to being an adult is to go out into the world and get a job, right? From the time you’re able to work legally, usually around fifteen or sixteen depending on where you live, the idea of having your own income starts sounding pretty appealing. Having a job can offer a whole new world of independence, but finding the right job can be daunting—and even if you find the job you want, will you stand out in the hiring process and ace the interview? Here are a few guidelines to consider before your search:

Making a resume is the best place to start. Most online applications will require you to upload your complete resume or enter the information from your resume manually. Either way, having all of the information available and organized in one document will make it easier to get your name out there and establish your credibility. Most word processors will have a number of resume templates with different designs for you to choose from and input your own information. Additionally, you can find examples of a resume online for you to review before you start building your own. A good resume will answer three questions:

  1. What kind of educational/professional history do I have?
  2. What skills have I learned from my past experiences?
  3. Will I be a good fit for the position I’m applying for?

The introductory paragraph should read something like a cover letter. In the event that an online application requires a cover letter, you can copy and paste this introductory paragraph into a separate document, beef it up a little bit and namedrop the company or position you’re applying for, and submit it as a cover letter. Be sure to highlight your strengths, any significant experiences, and what you are looking for in a job. If you’re still a student, it can be beneficial to list any extracurricular activities or positions you’ve held within the academic sphere. Maybe you’re on the softball team, in GSA, or sing in your school choir. All of these activities are a testament to your commitment and work ethic, and are worth mentioning on your resume. 

Finally, you will need to establish a work history timeline. If you’ve never had a job before, volunteer experience or special projects can be listed in this segment instead. Maybe you helped babysit your brother a few times last summer—you can add this as work history, and list your parents as a reference. Didn’t you help build the sets for your school play once or help your mom work the concession stand at a baseball game? Employers aren’t expecting you to have two years of professional experience at fifteen years old, but you would be surprised at what can be considered “work history.” That being said, be sure to descriptively list all of the tasks and responsibilities you fulfilled during that experience. For each job you’ll need to list a professional reference—someone who will vouch for you. Be sure to give your references a heads-up that they might be getting a call from someone asking about you very soon! 

Now that you’ve constructed a positive image of yourself on your resume, it’s time to make sure your internet presence matches that squeaky-clean image. It’s not a bad idea to do this kind of maintenance regularly, but it’s especially important to do a quick review of your social media profiles and delete anything that might seem problematic to a potential employer. Photos of you drinking or partying, using any type of drugs, smoking, or exposing parts of your body normally covered by your work clothes might not land you an interview. Any tweets alluding to drug use, sexual innuendos, or controversial opinions might be regarded with suspicion. Even tagged photos on Facebook could land you in the wrong stack of resumes, so use your best judgement, make your profiles private, and ask your friends to remove any questionable photos of you from their accounts as well. A quick Google search might turn up old, forgotten accounts on MySpace or other social media sites that have fallen by the wayside. Be sure your search is as thorough as the one employers might run! Alternately, social media can also be your best friend when it comes to finding a job. Creating a profile on LinkedIn will help establish your legitimacy, build a foundation for further professional networking, and show you job openings tailored to your experience. If you’re a creative, showcasing your work on a separate Instagram account could constitute a portfolio for submission! 

Based on your past experiences, what industry do you see yourself in? When you’re just starting out in your employment journey, it can be hard to decide what type of work you see yourself falling into—but remember, you’re not stuck there for life! The food-service industry is a good place to start if you like people, food, and lively environments. If you’re more of an independent worker, retail might be a better place to start. Do you like to work outdoors? Is working with young children more your speed? Maybe you just like dogs more than people? Landscaping, babysitting, and pet-sitting are great jobs that you can do around your neighborhood to gain work experience while avoiding the issue of transportation and foregoing the formal hiring process. You can find these kinds of gigs by networking in your community or asking the trusted adults in your life for referrals. The internet is your best friend when it comes to finding job openings, and Glassdoor is a great reference for seeing real employees’ accounts of working for a company to which you’re applying. Your teachers, community leaders, and religious program directors are also good people to ask for direction if you’re not sure how to start making a list of your options. 

Remember to let people know where you’re going and who you’re meeting for an interview, be sure to do your research about the job and the person contacting you before agreeing to meet anyone, and if you get a bad feeling, trust your gut or bring another person with you to the interview. Checking LinkedIn to cross-reference the name of the person contacting you and the company they say they’re working before you respond to any job offer will avoid some kind of scam. There are people out there who will prey on the perceived naivety of young people looking for a job. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Dressing for success is probably the easiest part of the whole process, or so it would seem. Of course you want to express yourself and show your employer who you really are but it’s always good to play it safe, especially if you’re going to be working in an entry-level position or for a corporate entity. Whether you’re going for your first in-person interview or reporting for duty on your first day, hygiene should be the top priority. This means you’re clean and showered with no dirt under your nails, your clothes are clean and ironed, and your hair is out of your face. Your employer might express certain guidelines for your appearance depending on where you’re working, but generally, conservative and practical is the way to go. For the sake of first impressions, removing facial piercings, skipping the heavy makeup, and covering your tattoos might be in your best interest. Even if your potential employer is cool, that’s a topic to approach once you’ve already been offered the job so that it doesn’t present itself as an act of defiance. 

Communication is extremely important, as it is a potential employer’s sole basis for judgement before they meet you and then again upon meeting you. This means that you will need to answer any emails or respond to messages from your potential employer promptly and formally, using complete sentences and being sure to include all requested information. If you are brought in for an interview, arriving early shows careful consideration for the time slot provided and establishes punctuality. Greeting people warmly with eye contact and a firm handshake demonstrates your people skills.

Be sure to answer directly. It’s okay if you don’t have answers for every question, but you’re not being timed—keep in mind that it’s okay to take a few breaths to think. There are a number of websites that offer lists of popular interview questions; if you get nervous in one-on-one situations, it might help to run a practice interview with one of your friends before the actual interview so you aren’t blindsided. 

Don’t be discouraged by the first round of rejections! Sometimes, losing out on a job you really wanted will give way to a different, more exciting opportunity. Remember: every moderately successful adult you know has gone through this process at least once, and they can help you. 

There’s an ideal career out there that is the perfect combination of all the things you love to do and all the things you’re capable of doing—but in the meantime, finding a job you’re suited for and that you’re comfortable doing is viable.