Looking For That First Paycheck
I've been job hunting for more than a month. I want a part-time job so that I can make my own money to get a cell phone, have my hair done every two weeks, and buy clothes and gifts. I want to help my mother because she doesn't always have money to give me. And I want to be independent.
I applied to three clothing stores and to Nathan's because they were either close to my apartment or my internship and because I knew these places hire young people. No one called me back, and I was starting to get frustrated.
Then I spoke to some adults who know about employment issues and jobs for teens. They made me feel a little better about my search.
1. Where to Find a Job
James Brown, labor market analyst for the New York City branch of the New York State Department of Labor, said he expects "the best summer in at
least three years" for teens looking for jobs in the city.
Many of the jobs available to teens are in the service sector, which includes retail (stores), food service (restaurants) and tourism (museums and hotels, for example). "Retail is improving with the general economy," said Brown. He also predicted a big tourist season, saying that places like Coney Island, Chelsea Piers and the museums will be adding staff for the summer.
Working at these jobs often means interacting with the public and doing simple, repetitive things like taking money, stocking shelves or making sandwiches. As I was applying to jobs, I was thinking, "I want to be a journalist. Is taking a job at Nathan's a waste of time?"
But then I talked to Patricia Noonan, who is a vice president at the Partnership for New York City, an organization that represents 200 of the city's top businesses. She told me working in the service sector isn't a waste because I could learn skills that will help me get jobs I want later in life.
"I've worked in restaurants all my life, and even though I don't work in a restaurant now, the skills I learned there I use every day: interacting with customers, how to keep your cool, how to work as part of a team, responsibility, and showing up on time," Noonan said.
2. How to Make Connections
I also spoke with Tom Pendleton, executive director of the School to Work Alliance, an organization that gets businesses to partner up with schools to provide teens with jobs, mentors and job training. He told me that many teens get jobs through someone they know, who refers them to someone they know.
"If you're looking for a job, tell everyone you know you're looking for a job. Tell people at church, schoolwherever you go, somebody might know somebody who might be in a position to give you a job," Pendleton said.
I didn't know anyone who worked at the places I applied to. But I'm now going to start talking about my job search with people like my cousin Michelle, who has her own hair salon, and my teachers.
3. How to Apply
When I went to the clothing stores and to Nathan's, I asked if they were hiring and got an application. I went home, filled it out and brought it in the next day.
The application asked for my current and past jobs, how much money I made, what position I want to apply for, how many hours I can work and how much money I want to make. I also had to provide the exact name and phone number of each of my jobs so that the employer could call to check if I really worked thereand that I wasn't fired for arguing with customers.
I didn't bring a resume, but Pendleton suggests taking yours with you when you apply for a job. A resume lists all the places you've worked,
including the dates you were employed at each job and the address and phone number of each place.
If you've never worked before, you can still make a resume. "You may have done volunteer work, child care or taught Sunday school," Pendleton
said. Or maybe you have to come home every day after school and prepare dinner. "That's work," he added. Include any activities you're involved in because they show responsibility, too.
But just because you fill out an application or leave your resume at a business Pendleton said, "it doesn't mean they'll actually get it. The person looking for the job has to keep asking and pushing." If you don't hear anything, follow up with a phone call or visit.
4. How to Prepare For an Interview
If I'm lucky, one of the places I've applied to will still call me for an interview. If that happens, I know I'll be ready. Noonan and Pendleton both told me that employers want someone who is articulate, pleasant, cheerful, hardworking and early to an interview.
"Teenagers make common mistakes like not taking it seriously, not dressing appropriately, and not being on time," Noonan said. Dressing in clean, neat, unsexy clothes is important: pants or skirt with a nice sweater or shirt is fine.
Boys, don't come to an interview with pants hanging halfway off your butt with a du-rag and Timberlands. Girls, don't come to an interview
in a miniskirt or showing cleavage.
Once you decide what to wear, you need to think about the interview. "Why should they hire you? It's not like people are doing you a favor," Pendleton said.
Employers are looking for someone to get the job done. You need to convince them that you can do it. He continued, "Practice before you go to an
interview. Get an adult to ask you questions."
Another mistake teenagers make during interviews is lying. Pendleton explained, "Don't make up things because you think that's what the employer wants to hear." If you get hired and the boss finds out you can't use the computer when you said you knew how, you can get fired.
5. How to Keep Your Job
Once you have the job, you need to work hard to hold onto it. Noonan advised, "No matter what the job is, if it's an internship or volunteer work, you should take it seriously by showing up on time, being diligent and putting your heart into it."
Pendleton told me, "Come to work every single day on time or earlier unless there's a real, real emergency, like you've been throwing
up all night or were in a car accident." If that happens, call the place you work at least a hour ahead of time to say you won't be in. He said to make sure you always have your employer's phone number with you.
He continued, "Get along with the other people at the job. Follow directions. Ask questions if you don't understand something. You're going to
do a better job if you do it the way they want you to do it, so you're saving time if you're doing it right from the beginning."
After talking to Pendleton and Noonan, I'm going to bring copies of my resume with me when I look into jobs, follow up on the jobs that I already applied for, and let people know I'm looking for a job. Most importantly, I'm not going to give up.
New Youth Connections (or NYC) is a general interest teen magazine written by and for New York City youth. It is a publication of Youth
Communication, an organization which helps teenagers develop their skills in reading, writing, thinking, and reflection, so they can acquire the information they need to make thoughtful choices about their lives.