How to Get Your First Job When You Have Zero Experience
CEE Standard: Earning Income
Many high school students will get a part-time job at some point. They may not realize all of the things they need to know before landing a job. Many may struggle with knowing how to get started without any experience. Help your students understand some of the basics.
I remember it as if it happened yesterday: my first job in high school. I was fed up with asking my mom for money, so I decided it was time to find a job. My mom didn’t want me to work and cautioned me that once I started working, I wouldn’t be able to stop. What she feared was that it would take me away from my schoolwork. I was in no mood to listen to anyone, not even to my mom. I just wanted my own money.
For many students looking for a first job, you may think your greatest skills are:
- Finding your way back home from the mall
- Staying awake while playing video games for 24 hours straight
- Being able to eat any dessert, even when adults complain that “It’s too rich”
- Reciting all 50 state capitals
The Bad News
No one cares that you can do any of those things. No one even cares that you know that Seattle is not the capital of Washington.
The Good News
You can still get a great first job. It can pay well, be close to home, and it can help you build your résumé. Your boss can become a mentor (very valuable), and it even led to my second job. And by your third job, bam — you can have a fairly respectable résumé.
Since I’ve done this before, I will hold your hand and help you get your first job. This is a practical lesson for how you (yes, you!) can quickly land your first job. Let’s go.
Beginning the Job Hunt
Before you start job hunting, it’s important to put together a résumé. But what do you put in one?
Look all around for inspiration. Think about awards you receive in school. Mention being a good student. Write about any projects you do, like selling items on eBay and planting a garden in the summer. Speak about any volunteer work, participation in after-school organizations, and anything else you do that sounds professional. Most importantly, list your references: teachers, neighbors — anyone a future boss may respect.
Anyone can craft a decent first résumé, as long as they can muster some self-esteem to realize their own value.
No employer hiring a 14-year-old expects an impressive résumé. So don’t worry too much. Focus primarily on breaking down doors and getting noticed. Show a potential employer that you’re responsible.
Let them know how often you would be able to work. If you’re responsible and reliable at age 14, you can get pretty much any entry-level job. It’s really a matter of looking the employer in the eye and telling him they would be wise to hire you. Offer a probationary period if they second-guess you. Prove your worth.
Picking the Job You Want
Once you have landed your first job offers, you are in the driver’s seat. Any employer would be lucky to have you. Here’s the exciting part: time for you to pick the job you want.
Focus on a job that does three things for you:
1. It’s enjoyable: If you like what you do, you’ll do it more often. Working more is generally a good thing. Hello, money!
2. It will advance your résumé: Do something you can build upon. For instance, if you want to work with animals, get a job cleaning animal cages. That’s your “foot in the door.” You can work your way to becoming a veterinarian eventually.
3. It pays well: Money is useful. So you’ll want lots of it. Don’t let anyone undervalue your worth just because of your age.
My First High School Job
My job search began in earnest, and I landed a position making sandwiches at the mall. I loved it. I loved the camaraderie, I loved the money, and I loved that first step toward adult independence.
I worked hard making sandwiches (I find it tough to look at a roast beef sandwich nowadays with good feelings). But it was hard work: I had to clean, help customers, manage cash, and arrive on time.
I discovered that customers weren’t always easy to work with — especially when they were hungry. My clothes always smelled like food, and after making the first 500 sandwiches, I no longer loved sandwiches so much, either.
But behind all those annoyances, I was being shaped for the future —plus I was learning how to budget and save my money. Working at the sandwich shop was among the many part-time jobs that I took on during high school.
Each one was a stepping stone to a future career.
What Can High Schoolers Do to Prepare?
For teens preparing for adulthood, your first job is an important milestone for a number of reasons:
- You learn how to manage your own money. This is huge. You will experience the sting of discovering what FICA is (Federal Income Contribution Act) and learn the distinction between money earned and actual take-home pay.
- You learn how to work. You would think that work is “easy,” but there is a process to being a good employee. You have to show up on time and be accountable to your boss and coworkers.
- You learn to be responsible. Employees must learn company talking points, safety standards, and the mundane tasks that keep the business running.
Many people would say that you have to be careful about the type of job that you decide to take up. I disagree. Even an entry-level, part-time job can teach you a number of transferable skills that can be used later on in life.
Let’s face it, many people are terrible workers. You know, there’s the person who stands and whines all the time, the person who schemes, and the brownnoser.
Figure out what type of worker you would like to be. And you don’t want to be any of the three mentioned above!
The youth labor force has increased dramatically of late, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those young people are well on their way to building their future careers and wealth. The younger you start saving, the more time you have to grow your wealth.
Your first job is your formal introduction to personal finance matters. When you proudly hold that check in your hands, you notice the deductions and begin to ask questions about money, taxes, and fairness!
After all, when your mother gives you an allowance, it comes with no strings attached. While making sandwiches, you realize that there are forces out there that you need to battle, and building a pile of savings is one way to win.