Let’s face it: The economy still is in bad shape. It hasn’t been this hard for people to find steady jobs since the Great Depression. And if you’re a high school student or a recent grad, times are even tougher. You probably don’t have a lot of job experience on your résumé, and you’ll be competing against older workers who do. You have to be ready to meet the challenge.
“If people are persistent enough, they can find a job,” says Matt Strey, who as a high school senior from St. Peter, Minn., put his persistence to work to make some extra cash one summer, eventually landing two jobs. One was as a server in a fast food restaurant, and the other was working as a janitor at Gustavus Adolphus, the local college.
Draw on your personal connections
To help find his summer employment, Matt used one of the most invaluable skills any job-hunter can have: networking. “I had an ‘in’ at both places,” Matt says. He learned about the janitorial position through a family member, and he learned about the server position from a friend he met on the track team.
If you have friends, family members, classmates or former co-workers who might help you find a job or put in a good word for you, don’t be afraid to ask them. For every personal connection you don’t ask, that’s one fewer chance you’ll have of finding the job you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, networking can’t work for everyone—especially not in today’s employment market. Simply, there’s too much competition for the same jobs right now in almost all parts of the economy.
How to really stand out from the crowd
You have to make sure you take great care in how you present yourself to employers. Take steps to make sure that your application is the best it can possibly be, or you won’t be able to compete. And as the most important thing you can have on your application is prior work experience, it’s crucial that you get such experience under your belt—something that’ll be hard to do if you don’t present yourself well to hiring employers.
“For the most part, young people need that first job opportunity to provide references and skills to get that next job,” says Marc Geiselhart, who as a Program Director with the Youth and Young Parent Division of the Employment Action Center in Minneapolis, Minn., helped teens and young adults snag crucial first jobs for more than 15 years.
Geiselhart says that the first thing you should do when looking for a job is to consider your strengths and experiences. Let’s say you have experience working as a waiter, for instance. As you fill in the “Job Experience” section of your application and résumé, don’t just put “waiter.” Get specific! Write what your duties were: “served customers; handled money; cleaned premises; opened and closed restaurant.” Don’t be afraid to brag about your past experiences. If you don’t, no one will.
Help yourself by helping others
If you have no work history, Geiselhart says, you can list other experiences—especially if you have volunteered. In fact, volunteer experience is helpful on two levels: Not only does it show that you know how to work, it also says a lot about what kind of person you are. Volunteer experience is so valuable for job-seekers that you will be doing yourself (and your community) a big favor by volunteering today—even while you’re looking for a paying job.
To find volunteer opportunities, check with your school, your church, hospitals, parks, nursing homes, non-profits, and any other group you can think of. These organizations need your help now more than ever. Opportunities abound. And you never know—connections you make volunteering could help you find a paying job down the road.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Somewhere out there, a job is waiting for you. Just remember: The only way to find it is to keep looking.