Sep 23, 2009

Teens & Jobs

Talking to teens today. All others, listen in if you want.

We all wish our parents had that "magic money tree" growing in the back yard, but the fact is, most teens have jobs to support their lifestyle. Wearing a hairnet & nametag may not be your career goal, but it is a first step in the working world. It builds character, and gets your foot in the door.

Teen unemployment is the highest it's been in 60 years. Have you applied for a job and then wondered why you never heard back? There may be some valid reasons besides the economy. Consider these pointers.

1. Timing

If you are applying for a job at any kind of restaurant, do NOT disturb them during their lunch & dinner rush hours. A good time might be 2-4 p.m. when they have time to speak to you. If a store sells clothing, Saturday afternoons are dreadfully busy. Try Tuesday mornings instead. If you must go in on a weekend, try to arrive within the first hour they are open.

2. Dress

What do you look like when you walk in? Do you dress smartly, as one who would well-represent the company? Or do you look like the creature from the Goth Lagoon? If a store sells clothes, they want a sales staff who has some sense of fashion. Banks and law firms sell "confidence" and so do not want tattoos and piercings. If you're applying for a job detassling corn, at least wear the clean jeans without holes in them.

3. Resume

Have a resume with you, even if the company doesn't ask for it. You can always offer to leave it with them in case there are openings in the future. Be sure to have all the names, address, and phone numbers of all your personal and professional references with you, so that you aren't phoning home every 5 minutes.

4. Mom

Speaking of phoning home, leave Mom at home. When I see helicopter moms helping their offspring fill out an application, I know they mean well. But I also wonder if Mom is going to be there every day to help Junior do the job, too.

5. Gratitude

If you are granted a moment to speak to the manager, remember that he is doing you a favor. Shake his hand (no dead fish - practice a firm, but not bone-breaking, shake). Thank him for his time. Good manners will take you a long way. If you are called in for a formal interview, be sure to get the manager's name (& correct spelling) so that you can follow up with a brief thank you note when you get home. No, not an email, not a text message. I'm talking about a real hand-written note of thanks for his consideration, in an envelope, with a 44 cent stamp, delivered by the US Postal Service.

Thoughtful people are always in demand. Going the extra mile is the edge you need in this economy.

6. Electronic applications

These are a bit trickier, as you don't have the opportunity online to impress anyone with your warm smile and firm (but not bone-breaking) handshake. The best thing you can do for this kind of application is spell everything correctly, and don't leave blanks. If the application includes psychological testing questions, be your best (human) self. There might be a question like "Have you ever been tempted to steal..." and if you say "no" they'll know you're a liar. So yes, it's ok to be truthful on these tests. Also, pay attention to duplicate questions. They may ask the same question (worded slightly differently) more than once, just to see if you'll answer it the same way. Again, if your answers don't match, you're a liar.

I always tell the truth. If their computer doesn't like me the way I am, then this is not a job I'd be happy in for long. I'd rather work for a human who shakes my hand without breaking bones, anyway. That "good manners" thing works both ways, you know. Good luck.

Whom will you impress with your good manners and thoughtfulness today?

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