Helping Teens Land That First Job

Spring is often the time of year when teenagers begin their first job.  I thought now would be a good time to offer some tips on landing a job when you lack prior experience.
Technology has changed how we learn of and apply for work.  Thankfully, technology hasn’t replaced networking, handshakes, and personal referrals.
Most teens will likely look for jobs with companies dealing with the public.  Unless the location is a standalone, privately-owned business it’ll likely have what’s called an applicant tracking system, or ATS.
When you fill out your online application, the company’s ATS puts your application in a file.  If you’re scheduled for an interview, then you’re moved to a different file.  The ATS allows a company to, well, track where you stand in the hiring process.  It’s a way for companies to manage the overwhelming number of candidates.
So what’s a teen to do?  Simply fill out the online application and wait for a call?  Of course not.  Let me share two brief stories from many years ago, each involving one of my twin sons.
He was looking for a summer job.  I often shopped at a big box retailer where I’d gotten to know assistant manager “Mike.”  Mike told me they get so many applicants that they mostly rely on someone’s personal suggestion, then pull that name from their ATS.  He told me to let him know once my son had applied, then Mike would go in, pull his name, and make sure he got interviewed.
So it’s a combination of online applying AND someone putting in a word with management.
Since that’s the case, the next question is who could put in a word for you.  Here’s where networking comes into play.
Think about people you know.  Parents, relatives, friends, etc.  Ask where they work and/or where shop.  If they frequent a restaurant, ask them if they’ll encourage the manager to interview you.
Another option is to dress appropriately and visit the location.  Walk in and ask to speak with the manager.  First impressions are huge and, frankly, you can do a much better job of impressing someone in person versus being one of many in their ATS.
Here’s my second story.  This involved my other son and a job at the local mall.  He’d applied at the store and was going in for a group discussion about the company, then was to hopefully be scheduled for a future interview.
I reminded him to be sure to smile, look the manager in the eye, use a firm handshake and speak clearly and personably.
Later that day he came home and told me they’d not only interviewed him right then and there, but hired him on the spot.  It wasn’t because he had prior retail experience – he had none.  It was his appearance, body language, and personality.
Landing that first job can seem like a tall task.  Hope this has helped.  Good luck!