Put that extra time you’ll have this summer to good use. No matter your age, working a summer job can help you build your savings or pay for that special something. Whatever your reasons, working will give you practical experience that you can apply to your future career.
And get ahead of the competition. Now — before school lets out -— is the time to start job hunting.
States have different youth employment rules, so check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s website at go.scoutlife.org/childlabor to find out what you can legally do.
If you’re too young to be officially employed, find work in your neighborhood. Jobs such as dog walking, pet sitting, babysitting and yard care can easily be done within walking distance of home.
Pick your type of business and create a flier to put on your neighbors’ doors. For example, offer pet sitting and put out fliers a few weeks before school ends. If your neighbors know you’re available to care for their pets when they go on vacation, they’re more likely to call you and schedule it. Be sure your flier mentions the care of your own pets — your experience — so potential customers know you can be trusted with their beloved creatures.
Experience is always key to making yourself more attractive to a potential employer. For instance, your First Aid merit badge experience could help make you especially qualified as a babysitter. Also, your local fire department or hospital might offer “sitter certification.” These special courses can train you on how to play safe, perform infant and child CPR, and what to do in case of an emergency.
GET OUT THERE
Getting a job often requires you to “pound the pavement.” That means scouring neighborhood businesses for “Help Wanted” signs, asking your favorite shops and restaurants for a job, checking online, or getting ideas from parents, family friends, Scout leaders or other trusted adults.
If you’re looking for work in an establishment, you need to know how to put together a résumé, gather references, fill out a job application and prepare for interviews.
A résumé summarizes your experience and accomplishments. It should include these basics:
- Name and contact information
- Work experience/volunteer history
- Skills, training and certifications
- School or community organizations you belong to and other activities and accomplishments (Scouts, awards, sports, academic honors, etc.)
Review samples of teen résumés at go.scoutlife.org/teenresumes. These will give you a good idea of what your résumé should look like and what it should include, whether or not you have work experience.
Also, remember that “your résumé has less than 20 seconds to make a good impression on an employer,” says Alison Doyle, a professional job searching guide, so it needs to be “eye-catching and easy to read.”
A reference is someone you know personally who has agreed to talk with potential employers about your skills, abilities and experience. They help employers validate the information on your résumé.
Previous employers, teachers, a youth minister, coach and Scoutmaster can make great references. To be polite, ask them before you give their names and contact info to a potential employer who has asked for references.
Most jobs require you to fill out an application. Pick up the form in person, and do it alone — don’t show up at a place of employment with your friends or parents. First impressions are important. Dress appropriately and greet the receptionist politely when requesting or turning in an application; the receptionist’s first impressions often are passed along.
The application is your first chance to present your skills to the employer, so read it carefully and fill it out completely. Here are some helpful tips:
- Bring everything you might need: a pen, your résumé (so all your info is on hand) and references list.
- Be honest in your answers.
- Know your Social Security Number (SSN). If you don’t, ask your parents for it.
- Print clearly.
- Apply for a specific position, if possible, instead of entering “anything” or “open” for the desired position.
- Leave no blanks. Write “N/A” for “not applicable” if a question doesn’t apply to you.
- If you take an application with you, be sure to return it to the correct person by the deadline.
You get a call; it’s time for an interview:
- Arrive for your interview at least 15 minutes early.
- Dress as if you want to work there. Don’t wear jeans, a T-shirt or ball cap; be clean and neat.
- Bring copies of your résumé and references list with you.
- Leave your cellphone in the car so it won’t be a distraction.
- Shake your interviewer’s hand, look him or her in the eye, and stand and sit up straight.
- Answer questions clearly and honestly. For instance, don’t overcommit to the hours you can work and then back down after you get the job. Be honest about your skills and experience. The quickest way to crash and burn in your new gig is by fibbing.
See “Have an Answer” (below) for some commonly asked interview questions.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
“No matter your age, getting a job is about standing apart from hundreds of others seeking the same position,” says Bethany Williams, author of Brand YOU: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Brand. “What will you do to be memorable, appear respectful and dependable, and stand out in a large crowd of applicants?”
Nationally, an average of three unemployed people are competing for each job opening. If you can’t find paid work, consider offering to help for free. Volunteer positions can turn into paid positions, and volunteering always looks good on future applications.
“Be bold!” Williams says. “Your job is to advertise yourself and your capabilities better than anyone else.”
HAVE AN ANSWER
Here are some of the most common interview questions. Think through your answers and practice them with a parent ahead of time.
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. Mention a few things that an employer would be interested in: your extracurricular activities (including Scouting), plans for after graduation, etc.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK HERE? Be Prepared to tell the employer something you like about the company, not just that you need the money.
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH? BIGGEST WEAKNESS? Make sure the strength you talk about is work related: You have leadership experience, are a people person, conscientious, good at math, physically fit, etc. Put a positive spin on your biggest weakness. For example, if you’re “too detail oriented,” you could say that you try to overcome this by being careful to keep the end goal in mind and work toward that.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF…? You might be presented with different uncomfortable scenarios, such as witnessing a coworker stealing or dealing with a rude customer. Saying that you would ask your supervisor for help in these situations is usually a good answer.
YOUR BEST SELF
Present your best self in person, on paper and elsewhere. Take these suggestions from snagajob.com:
REVIEW YOUR ONLINE PROFILES — Make sure your Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts, etc. don’t contain questionable content. Employers will check up on you online.
CHECK YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS — Use an email address name that isn’t inappropriate. Open a separate account if necessary.
LISTEN TO YOUR VOICEMAIL — If your voicemail message is goofy, change it to something more professional while you’re job hunting.
CHECK YOUR SPELLING — This attention to detail always gives a good impression. Also, don’t “text speak” on applications or in your résumé. Be sure to double-check your numbers; reversing two digits in your phone number will undo all your efforts when a would-be employer can’t contact you.