I consider myself to be extremely fortunate when it comes to having a career that I both love and feel rewarded for. Since my first job at the age of 14, dressing up in an old fashioned swimming costume and waving to passers by along a busy highway in order to draw attention to a new apartment complex, I have been able to find fun work where I was appreciated and well compensated. I wake up each day with a smile on my face knowing my time will be spent productively and I will have a good time.
Unfortunately, it would appear I am among the minority. The vast majority of people I speak to tell me they can't stand their jobs. Every day I meet young people who are embarrassed to tell me where they work. I meet high school students who change jobs as often as they change clothes, college students who are frustrated with making minimum wage and recent graduates who have accepted positions far beneath them because they are desperate to be employed. These bright and energetic young people complain to me that their jobs are boring, that their bosses are monsters, that they are under paid and going nowhere. Many of these young people become jaded and will fall into the rut of working 'dead-end' unrewarding jobs through out their lives. You've seen it happen yourself. Perhaps it is your mother or father, maybe an aunt, uncle or neighbor, each of us knows at least one person who seems completely miserable and it all stems from their job. These people complain constantly that they are getting taken advantage of, some of them are so depressed by their situations they find it hard to get out of bed in the mornings. They have no passion for their chosen profession.
I once met a young lady who told me of her love for animals and her intense desire to attend school to become a veterinarian. When I asked about her present occupation, she told me she worked the drive-thru at a burger joint! As you might guess, she detested her job. Similarly, I met a young man recently who complained about his part-time position as a golf caddy at a fairly exclusive club in West Palm Beach. This is a job many young men would be quite thrilled to have. So, I inquired as to his reason for disliking the job. "I hate golf" he replied.
As I tell students in my lecture programs every day, you deserve better. You deserve to be successful! You deserve to be happy! Lets face it, just about anyone can get a job. You may be young, but that does not mean you should allow your years to be wasted in unsatisfying jobs that are taking you nowhere.
I want to teach you how to find a job that you will love. I firmly believe that if you follow the techniques laid out for you here that you will find employment that is enjoyable, rewarding and will lay the foundation for career that you can be proud of.
What do you want to do?
Most young people never consider what they would like to do when looking for a job. Instead they consider, 'who is hiring?'. Some businesses always seem to be in the market to hire teens, such as fast food restaurants and mass market retailers. That's why a huge percentage of teenagers get their first job working for companies like McDonalds or Wal-mart, and while there will be a few kids who find satisfaction in those positions, and a few more who go on to develop careers in those fields, the vast majority of those teens will find this is only the first stop in a job-hopping future. They won't find happiness at these traditional first jobs for teenagers, because the work itself is not something they ever really wanted to do in the first place.
In order to find a job you will truly enjoy, you must first ask yourself 'What do I like?'. Make a list of all the things you like and feel passionate about. Here is an example.
What I like:
Playing the guitar, music
Talking on the phone
Baby sitting kids
Now, once you have finished compiling the list of things you like, go back and think of jobs or businesses that involve that item or would allow you to take part in that activity.
What I like
1. Play the guitar, music
2. Mexican food
5. Video Games
7. Talking on the phone
8. Baby sitting
1. Clerk at CD store, Intern for radio station, Guitar instructor
2. Waiter or Cook at a Mexican Restaurant
3. Dog-walker, Assistant at a Vet's office
4. Lifeguard, Swimming pool maintenance
5. Computer programmer, software development
6. Car wash, Gas station attendant
7. Telemarketer, Telephone sales
8. Day care worker, Camp counselor
You may even be able to come up with a few jobs that cover more than one area of interest for you. For example, this young person likes music and enjoys being around small children, so he would certainly enjoy a job teaching guitar lessons at a day camp for kids. Since he enjoys swimming as well, maybe he could work as a lifeguard at the day camp too.
Upon completing this exercise, you should have list of potential jobs that you would actually enjoy doing. Pick your top three or four ideas and consider any local businesses that hire people to fill these positions. Check your telephone directory to insure that you compile a complete list. Don't be embarrassed to ask your parents, teachers or other adults for their ideas too. There is always a possibility that they know someone who can help you out. Check the local help wanted ads, job listing websites and the job board at your school as well.
Do a little research on any of the businesses you are considering approaching about a job and narrow down your list to the ones you would be proud to work for. Some of the things you will want to consider are;
Location of the business
Beginning salary for employees
Education or training requirements
Benefits offered, such as discounts, vacation time and medical insurance
Dress code or uniform needs
Reputation of the business
Don't worry about whether or not the business is presently seeking employees. I can assure you, every business is 'hiring' when the right person comes along. They might not know they need you until you walk through the door!
Once you have your list of potential jobs and companies, it is time for the job search to begin!
Contacting Potential Employers
Before you pick up the telephone and start dialing, keep in mind there are several ways that you can contact a potential employer to let them know of your interest in working for them. In some cases, a phone call will work fine, but quite often you are better to write a letter or visit the business in person. Remember, this initial contact will establish your first impression and be the deciding factor in whether or not you get interviewed.
Letter of Introduction
I am partial to sending a letter of introduction to the owner or manager of a company when seeking employment. When you send a neatly typed letter showing your interest in working for a business and listing your applicable skills, or better yet, with your resume attached, it conveys that you are serious about gaining employment with them and shows professionalism on your part. In order for your letter and resume to get into the right hands it helps to do some research though. Find out who is responsible for hiring, and mail the letter directly to their attention. Letters addressed 'To whom it may concern;' or 'ATTN: Human Resources' are often seen as unsolicited mail and may get shuffled around for weeks, if the letter is opened at all.
When writing a business letter, it is essential that you punctuate correctly, use proper grammar and not misspell any words. Have one of your parents or your English teacher review the letter for you before you send out your final copy.
Use white or cream colored standard document paper printed with black ink. Do not use bright colored or 'cute' stationary. Sign your name in blue or black ink only. I once got a letter from a young lady interested in working for my business written in purple magic marker on a Winnie the Pooh note card! Might I remind you again, this is your first impression. Make it a positive and professional one.
Do not fax or e-mail your letter, as many times this will re-format your correspondence, shrink the size or in some other way make it difficult to read. Send your letter via first class mail through the U.S. postal service. The only exception to this rule is if a help wanted advertisement specifically requests resumes via fax or e-mail. In such cases, we certainly want to show that we are capable of following directions.
Allow your letter two days from mailing to be delivered and read. If you have not heard back from the business by the end of day 3, place a telephone call to follow up. It is not unusual for businesses to wait and see if a potential employee will call them. Particularly if you are seeking a sales job, businesses want to know that you are a go-getter! See below for telephone instructions.
I've had lots of teens tell me that they have called businesses, only to hear from a receptionist 'we're not hiring'. In some cases the receptionist may be correct, but it could also be that she simply does not know. Perhaps the owner of the company intends to expand the business and has not yet informed the rest of his staff or perhaps someone has recently quit and the receptionist is not aware of the situation. If you decide to make a phone call your initial form of contact, make sure you talk to a decision maker not just a gatekeeper. Your odds of getting through to someone important within the company are much better if you sound professional yourself. Practice what you intend to say before calling. Speak loud and clear. Use a positive greeting and smile while you are talking.
You might begin a call with "Good afternoon. May I please speak with Mr. Robert Smith?" If you don't know the name of the person you need to speak with, try "May I speak with your human resources director please?"
If you are told the person is unavailable, do not stress out. Simply ask to be transferred to that person's voice mail. Once you arrive in the voice mail box, leave a detailed message, such as; "Hello, Mr. Smith. This is Jennifer Jones. I'm calling in regards to an employment opportunity with your company. Please call me back at 555-1010." Keep your message short and sweet. If your call is a follow-up call, state "I am following up to a letter I sent you a few days ago. I look forward to speaking with you soon." If the person you are trying to reach does not have a voicemail box, you are generally better off to call back at another time. Ask the receptionist "When is the best time for me to reach Mr. Smith?" and heed his or her advice.
If you are expecting a return call, do yourself a huge favor and be certain that your answering machine or voice mail sounds professional! There is not much worse for a busy executive than to try and return a call only to reach a childish or indecipherable voicemail. Music, silly voices or poor language skills are unacceptable.
When you are fortunate enough to get through to the correct person on the telephone you must be prepared to take advantage. Maintain your positive attitude and professional voice and state the purpose of your call. "Mr. Smith, my name is Jennifer Jones and I am calling you today because I am interested in gaining employment with your company." Do not ask "Are you hiring?". It is too easy for people to say "No".
Instead, ask for an interview. "I would like to be able to share my skills and experience with you. When would be a convenient time for me to come in for an interview?" Close the conversation with "I really appreciate your taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to meeting you." Stay positive and upbeat, even if it does not appear you will be getting an interview, "I'd like to go ahead and mail you my resume anyway, that way if a job should open up, you can contact me." Again, always thank the person for taking time to speak with you, even if this first call did not go well.
Person to Person
If you have decided you would like to work in a retail shop, fast food restaurant or other business that hires a lot of teens, you may find it best to just walk right in and ask to speak with a manager. Prepare yourself though. When you walk into a place of business looking for employment, you should be ready to fill out an application and interview on the spot. This means you should look your absolute professional best. You should take a pen that writes in blue or black ink, a copy of your resume to leave with the manager, and proper identification. Go alone. It looks very unprofessional to take a friend, or even a parent along with you when looking for a job.
When you approach an associate of the company, introduce yourself and ask politely "Is there a manager available for me to speak with regarding employment?" You may get some objections here, such as "we're not hiring" or "she's not in". If that is the case, smile and state "I'd like to leave my resume and/or fill out an application anyway if that's possible." If you are given an application, fill it out right then and there. Once you have handed over your application, ask for the manager's name. You will need to know who to follow up with by phone later. Don't worry if a phone number is not offered, that is easy enough to look up on your own. Thank the associate for their time and assistance. Keep in mind, this person will likely share their impression of you with their manager. Call the manager back the next day to make certain they received your application and to request an interview. You are more likely to get through if you ask for them by name, "May I speak to Mr. Smith?" instead of being generic and just asking for a manager.
If you are fortunate enough to speak with a manager in person on your first visit to the business, you hit the jackpot! Take advantage of this incredible opportunity to let them know why you want to work for their company and how they will benefit from hiring you.
Don't Give Up
It may take a dozen or more letters and phone calls before you get an interview. It may take a dozen interviews before you are offered a job, but do not despair. It is worth the extra effort involved in the hunt to be employed in a job that you will love. There is great reward in having a career that you enjoy and can be proud of!