Tips for teenagers on finding that first job

Finding that first part-time job can be hard for teens, but as the economy bounces back from COVID, now is a great time to find work. Careers expert Helen Green offers advice for teenagers.

Are you a teenager with no formal work experience? Landing a job will not just give you money, but independence and valuable experience as well. Work- whether paid or voluntary, helps you develop ‘employability’ skills that will be important throughout your working life.

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging for young people. COVID-19 disruption, remote learning, the cancellation of most sport and entertainment and fewer chances to mix with friends. Yet, as the economy opens, the news for young job seekers is more positive. I have never seen so many notices on local shop windows looking for casual staff. This presents an opportunity as many businesses that hire young casual staff like hospitality and retail may be more willing to hire young people without ‘experience’ who are reliable and keen to learn.

Here are some general tips to help you get started looking for your first job:

Set parameters

Be realistic about how much paid work you can take on as you juggle schoolwork, sport, and everything else. Check if the job you are applying for requires a minimum number of hours per week or late shifts. Factor in travel time and costs.

Think outside the square

A job in retail or hospitality is terrific especially now, but these are not the only options. You might be able to get work in a field linked to your hobbies. Some examples include football umpiring, dance teaching, working at a vet clinic, helping out at your local hairdressers or plant nursery, working in a warehouse/trade setting and babysitting.

Transferable skills

Many teenagers worry they have nothing to offer an employer because they have not worked. Remember employers know you are starting out and will be more interested in attitude and your potential. Give this some thought. Don’t forget that having to adapt to the educational changes resulting from COVID-19 is evidence of your resilience and adaptability.

Are you a good organiser at school? Do you play team sports or in a school band? Do you take the lead in organising social events? Have you held any leadership positions? Are you bilingual? Are you on the debating team? Are you good at maths?

Have you done any volunteering in the community or even helped at the sports canteen on weekends? Volunteering is great and can lead to all sorts of future opportunities. These examples might point to your personality, communication skills and willingness to help others. For instance, being a team player at school can link to being a team player at work.

Remember to link your skills to the specific position you are applying for and what skills the employer is asking for in the selection criteria. Make a list of your transferable skills and personal qualities. Sometimes it can be hard identifying your own skills so remember to ask your friends and trusted adults for their input.

Talk to people

The more the better. Most jobs are not advertised. Tell everyone you are looking for work, especially friends who are working. Do they know of any opportunities? Be keen and ask them to keep an eye out for you and keep reminding them. This can really help you get your first job.

The CV. Yes, you need one. Keep it simple, in word format and consistent. One page is enough. Include basic details like your age, contact details and a brief personal statement. This should be tailored to the position with some key words from the job’s key selection criteria.

Your CV should show a positive attitude, willingness to work, education, awards, hobbies and any work experience you have done. There are many local online resources that can give you template examples. Proofreading your CV is important so get some help if you can.

Job search

The job market is still competitive, especially for highly sought after casual roles. Apart from SEEK, Indeed, CareerOneStudent Edge, and a multitude of other online job postings, don’t forget the local paper or local community job boards or online community hubs. Keep an eye out for signs on job windows as there are many and, again, enlist the help of others. Are there any vacancies where your friend or neighbour works? Employers are often open to the idea of hiring the friends of a trusted employee.

Pound the pavement. Call into places you are interested in, leave your CV with the manager and make a positive impression. Don’t forget to wear smart casual clothes and look neat. This helps you get your first job.

Social media profile

Does it need cleaning up? Your future employer may look you up online. Avoid posting anything you wouldn’t want your prospective employer to see. Unfortunately, you can’t remove information posted online (remember this one), but you can clean it up. Don’t forget your mobile voicemail – make sure it is clear, polite and brief.

Referees

Who can vouch for you as being reliable, enthusiastic, hard-working? Teachers, trainers, coaches, tutors, family friends can all be terrific referees. Do make sure to ask first.

The interview

Some teenagers tell me they had a two-minute interview and were asked to come for a trial shift, whilst other interviews are more structured, especially if through larger food chains for example.

Prepare and it will be less daunting. Read a bit about the place where you want to work first – your knowledge will impress. Do you know anyone who can tell you about the business and what it is like to work there? Wander through the workplace beforehand if possible to soak up the atmosphere.

At the interview, be prepared to talk about yourself and your skills/strengths and always link this back to the job by saying how these will be of benefit to the prospective employer or job you are applying for. Think of those transferable skills! Above all, prospective employers are looking for staff with the right attitude – skills can be taught but attitude is everything.

Wear smart clothes, make good eye contact, smile, ask questions, show genuine interest and remember to thank the interviewer (a follow-up email won’t hurt either as it shows how keen you are). It also helps to remember the interviewer was your age once and they would have been nervous too.

Found a job – know your rights

It is very important you feel comfortable and safe in your workplace. It is also important you are paid at the right rate and you are legally protected in your job. Visit the Fair Work Australia website and perhaps ask your parent or a trusted adult to help you if you are unsure.

About Helen Green

Helen Green is a qualified careers consultant, with more than two decades working in senior education and career program management roles. She worked at Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, as the School’s Career Programs Consultant. She now runs her own careers consulting practice Career Confident, and is a regular contributor to The Parents Website.

This is an updated version of Helen’s original post for The Parents Website.