Are you 16 and looking for your first job? Or are you in college and looking for a job between semesters? Whether or not it’s your first time seeking a job, the experience can seem intimidating. But with preparation and a willing attitude, you may find it easier to step out of your comfort zone and into the working world. Here are 10 tips:
The best time to begin looking for work is before you are desperate. If you need a summer job, start looking in winter. If you want a great internship as a senior, start preparing for it as a sophomore or junior. Employers like employees who plan ahead.
To begin with, you may have to take whatever work is available. You may have to work to gain experience and show that you can be dependable. Any honest work is worthy of respect, and a great job—for now—may simply be one that provides employment. But if you can find a job that’s interesting and that matches up with your long-term goals, you’ll not only be working, you’ll be working toward something.
You’re more likely to get a job you’ll enjoy if you know what you’re looking for. Ask yourself: What are my talents? What do I like to do? What am I passionate about? What do I want to be 5 or 10 years from now? If you love nature, look for work at a summer camp or a store that sells outdoor equipment. If you love technology, look at an electronics or computer store.
Here’s a word of warning: Be prepared for realities. When I was in college I thought about majoring in agricultural journalism. At first, I was excited when I was hired to work on a dairy farm. But it didn’t take me long to realize that being around manure and sour milk was something I would never enjoy.
Now ask yourself: Do I interact well with other people, or do I prefer to work on my own? How can I bless others through my skills and abilities? You can help other people by working in a team, but you may also find that you’ll help by providing a service on your own. In either case, you’ll find greater fulfillment when you see how your work blesses others.
According to LDS Employment Resource Services, over one-third of jobs are found by networking—talking to those you know, like friends and family members. You may be surprised how often people know other people who can open a door for you. If your uncle knows someone who is hiring people, see if he’ll refer you. If your friend has a job she enjoys, ask her how she got it, and if there are additional positions available. If you apply, she might be able to put in a good word for you.
It might seem outdated to think that big, fat book (or the online equivalent) can help in the job hunt, but it can help you find local employers in areas you’re interested in. LDS Employment Resource Services says approaching a company directly is the second-best way to find a job.
Think about what you can contribute as an employee. Though most jobs you will apply for at this time in your life will not require a résumé, you may want to prepare one. A résumé is a summary of your work skills, experience, personal interests, and accomplishments. Whether you feel experienced or not, you may be surprised at the qualifications you already have. Have a parent or teacher help you with the wording for your résumé.
The first question in a job interview is often “What can you tell me about yourself?” What employers are looking for is basic information that is significant to the job. What they are not looking for is where you were born or what your favorite color is.
Prepare a three-to-five sentence response in advance, and make a good impression: “I am a responsible person who is trustworthy and punctual. I enjoy being around people and serving them, so learning to work in a restaurant will be no problem. I can handle many different tasks at one time. I have shown leadership skills in my church group for young women ages 14 to 15, where I’ve helped to plan activities, attended meetings, and met weekly commitments.”
Have a parent or writing teacher help you write a statement tailored for you, the job you want, and the qualifications you have. Then try to memorize it and say it in 30 seconds. Practice a few times with a parent or a friend, or out loud by yourself.
Now that you’ve prepared, you’re ready to contact potential employers. Although many will ask you to apply online, going to the workplace shows your interest and may land you an interview on the spot, so dress accordingly (see the list of do’s and don’ts for advice on appearance). Remember to present yourself well even in preliminary contacts.
If you’re not given an interview immediately, do the best you can to keep the ball in your court. That means if the employer tells you they will be calling you back in seven days with an interview time or decision, you ought to call them on day eight if you haven’t heard back. Be polite in asking if a time has been scheduled or a decision made.
Finding a job isn’t always easy, but keep in mind that the more persistent you are, the stronger the chances are that you’ll get a job. Remember to pray to Heavenly Father for the guidance of the Spirit. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).