Helping your teenager land their first job-a must read!


Undoubtedly, one of the most monumental occasions in a teenagers life is landing their first job!  The whole idea of making (and spending) their own money can be very appealing.  This time can also be exciting for us, as parents, since we are equally excited about the prospect of our children finally spending their OWN money instead of burning a big hole in our wallets!  However, before you send them out into the big, bad world to complete every fast food application on the main drag, it’s important to be sure that they are aware of the basic standards of job hunting.

Prior to starting my business, I spent over 30 years in retail management.  Specifically, the last 18 years I held various positions in Human Resources; most recently as the HR Director for the Parisian Department Store at Laurel Park Mall (11 years).  During that time I saw it all.  I had people arrive for interviews wearing bathing suits (yes, really!), bring their babies with them because they couldn’t arrange child care, show up 30 minutes late with no phone call and not even apologize, show up on the wrong day and not show up at all.  I’ve had people lie on their applications and their resumes.  I’ve had people show up drunk.  I could easily go on and on…

The bottom line is this:  When you are applying for a job you need to put your best foot forward and present yourself as a professional person who is friendly, reliable, dedicated, hard working and capable of learning.  The HR professional/owner/manager or whomever is responsible for screening or interviewing you will have plenty of people to choose from!  So, ask yourself this:  “How am I going to differentiate myself and land this job?”

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. A RESUME IS A MUST: Always have a professional resume ready to present, both when you apply and when you go in for your scheduled interview.  Even if you do not yet  have any actual work experience, you can start with a simple resume and list volunteer work, babysitting services, working for family businesses, working at summer camps, etc.  Those types of experiences can all show examples of your skillsets and give the interviewer an insight into the type of person you are.  Basic resume templates can be found within Microsoft office.  You can also do a Google search for “free resume templates”.  Also, check with your school counselor’s office for assistance.  Keep it simple & be sure to list any extracurricular activities and community involvement.
  2. PREPARE REFERENCES IN ADVANCE:  Make a list, on separate paper, of at least 3 people, including their names, phone numbers and email addresses, that you can provide as references, when asked.  Be sure you have permission from these people before placing them on your list.  If you have worked before, prior supervisors are best.  If you do not have prior work experience then you can use the people you may have babysat for, supervisors from events or programs in which you volunteered for or even teachers, coaches or counselors from your school.
  3. FOLLOW UP AFTER YOU APPLY:  One of the big challenges in today’s world is the roadblock we face of having to file “electronic” applications.  Not only is it more time consuming (ugh!) but it also removes our opportunity to make a face to face impression with a company representative.  In order to try and separate yourself, I recommend that you call the company that you applied to, the following day.  Ask for Human  Resources or the Manager on Duty.  Simply introduce yourself and let them know that you submitted an application and want to check on the status.  Once they look up your application, they may ask you a few questions.  At that point, if it sounds like you have met all the qualifications for the job, let them know that you would greatly appreciate an opportunity to arrange an interview with the hiring manager.
  4. INTERVIEW DAY:  On the day of your interview, be sure to BE EARLY!  Notice that I said be early, not be on time.  As a hiring manager, we expect that our interviewees are on schedule.  Most of the time, I was so busy I could barely see straight and my time was important to me.  So, if one was late it could mess up my whole day.  In addition, if someone was late, it always led me to wonder if that was an indicator of future performance.    This is NOT the way you want to start things off!  Be at least 5-10 minutes early.  That way, you are not stressing yourself out by running in at the last minute and you are assured to make a good impression.  Also, if a legitimate emergency does happen (car doesn’t start) be SURE that you contact the company and inform them immediately, that you will need to reschedule.
  5. DRESS THE PART:  I cannot stress this enough!  It doesn’t matter whether you are interviewing at a bank or Taco Bell!  The manner in which you present yourself says more about you than you think it does.   Even if you know the dress code at the company is very casual you still need to go into your interview dressed reasonably professionally.  Once you get the job, then you can follow the dress code.  If you want to be taken seriously and considered as a viable candidate for any job, then go into your interview like you mean business!  You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, but you should look very nice, well groomed and be presentable.
  6. INTERVIEW ETIQUETTE:  Interviews can be very intimidating!   It’s important to know WHO you are interviewing for.  Before you go in, pull the company up on the web-review their background and jot down some notes about their history, the brand, what they do, what they sell, etc.  Many interviewers will ask  you, “So tell me what you know about us!”  If you cannot give them some detailed information that makes them feel that you understand why you came there in the first place, they will be instantly turned off.  Even as a young person applying at Arby’s, a job is still a responsibility.  Someone will be paying you to perform specific tasks/functions in order to support their business.  And that someone (Store Manager) has a huge responsibility-to run that location and ensure that it is profitable, every day, every month, every year.  In order to make that happen, he has to hire great people that will work with enthusiasm and drive, who are self-motivated, but can work together, with others, as a team.  So, be prepared to talk about how you will contribute to the company and  help it be it’s best.  Sit up straight, have good eye contact, answer with proper grammar (YES, not “yeah”) and mostly, try to relax and be friendly.  The majority of jobs you will be applying for at  your age are customer service related.  That means, the hiring manager is going to want people with outgoing, friendly and cordial personalities.  I know it sounds crazy, but this works:  Role-play (practice) interviewing with your parents!  They have been there and it will really help you!
  7. ALWAYS SEND A THANK YOU: After your interview is over, it is very important to send a thank you note to the person you interviewed with.  In most cases, a simple email thank you will do.  Even better, send a hand written or printed thank you note.  Ensure that the TY is professional, short and signed professionally (ex:  Sincerely,  Susan Richardson) not “Hugs, Susan”.    Simply reference the interview, state that you enjoyed meeting with them, that you are very interested in the job and look forward to hearing back from them.  Be sure to get those TY notes out within 48-72 hours from the interview!
  8. **That reminds me:  I BEG OF YOU:  Please be sure that you have a professional email address!  When you are submitting electronic applications and correspondence to potential employers you do not want to be doing so with an inappropriate, unprofessional email address (ex:!  So, create a new one (Gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etcc) that is professional and will help to maintain your professional image/brand and can carry you through college.  Your best choice is a combination of your name or initials with numbers.  No weird phrases or taglines.  Keep those “other” email addresses for personal use only, among family and friends and put your professional email address on your resume and Linked-in.   Trust me, this is another area that is a direct reflection of YOU!
  9. REALITY CHECK:  You have to realize that in most cases, many people are applying for the job you want!  The economy is rough right now.  So, if you aren’t selected for one job, keep trying and stay focused, positive and motivated.  If you follow all these tips, you greatly improve your chances of landing something that is perfect for you!

Remember that part of the act of finding a great job is networking.  Use the connections in your family, your school, your friends, your gym, any sports teams or other groups that you are affiliated with.  Let everyone know what you are looking for and ask them to keep you in mind if something comes up so they can refer you!    Summer will be here soon…good luck to everyone!

**Check back soon for upcoming posts on:

  • You landed the job; now what?
  • Preparing for the transition from High School to College:  Branding myself on social media-is it really necessary?


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