Five tips for teenage job-seekers

Holding a part-time job isn’t just a productive use of teenage time—it can also help you get into college, as I’ve explained in a past post. So with summer rapidly approaching, here are five tips to help you land a job to earn some money and experience.

1. Don’t be (too) picky.
If you have specific ideas about where you’d most like to work, take a shot and apply. But don’t be too picky, especially if this is your first job. I don’t want any teen to be miserable at work, but most successful adults have a story from their youth about a job that was far from glamorous. You might think you’re ready to be a teen titan of industry, but there’s a lot of honor to be found in sweeping floors, stacking inventory, or doing other jobs that might not be as glamorous or fun as you’d like them to be. Given how many other teenagers just like you are also looking for summer work, don’t limit yourself by applying only for the most desirable roles.

2. Apply for jobs you think you would be good at.
Casting a wide net is a good strategy, but not so much that you should apply for jobs that are just plain bad fits. Think about your strengths and how you might put those to work for an employer. Are you good with people? Kids? Computers? There’s probably a place in your town that would welcome a responsible, hard-working teenager to put those strengths to work.

3. Show employers that you have your act together.
Employers have to make hiring decisions based on limited information, especially with teenagers who have little or no job experience. That means they’re evaluating things that might have nothing to do with your potential job abilities. Make your application readable. Show up five minutes early for your interview. Smile and shake hands. Dress like this job matters to you. Ask a good question or two, and thank the interviewer for their time. You won’t get nearly as many bonus points for doing those things when you’re a college graduate. But a high school student who does the basics well is showing real potential to an employer.

4. Consider what you would ask if you were the interviewer.
There’s no way to know for sure what your interviewer might ask you. But here’s a technique that works surprisingly well: If you were interviewing people for this job, what would you ask? Write the questions out and then imagine how you would answer them. Come up with ten questions and there’s a good chance one or more of those topics will come up in the actual interview. And even if you don’t successfully predict the questions, you’ll almost certainly find an opportunity to use one or more of the answers you’d thoughtfully considered ahead of time.

5. Let the boss know you actually want the job.
Imagine you were the manager of a clothing store interviewing a teenager to work part-time over the summer. Think about how you would react if that applicant closed her interview with,

“I know I don’t have any experience. But I really like your store, I think I could be good at this, and I’d love to have the chance to work here. Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me.”

Employers want to hire people who actually want the job. And even if washing dishes or filing papers isn’t your idea of fun, you can still appreciate the opportunity and the experience. The previous tips will help you show with actions that you want the gig. Then say so with words and mean it.

And once you get the job, here’s a past post with five ways to thrive once you’re there.