by Melodie Davis
for release June 2, 2000
Job Hunting 101
Looking for a job? Interviewing? One of the best true stories I've heard regarding job hunting was a boss and office manager who conducted an interview by taking an applicant out for coffee and bagels. The job applicant wasn't sure what to order, so the boss suggested his favorite bagel topped with peanut butter.
Well, if you can imagine doing a job interview with peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, you can picture the poor interviewee. Every time she was asked a question, she seemed to have just filled her mouth with peanut butter and bagel. A word to the wise.
As my husband I have worked with our teens in looking for jobs, I've become aware that this too is an important area of parenting. There is so much they don't know! Maybe they took the wrong classes in school. Maybe our schools, instead of requiring Algebra I to graduate, should require Job Hunting 101.
Looking for work is the hardest work there is, even in a job market where it seems like there are "Help Wanted" signs on every fast food restaurant and grocery store. Some tips for job hunting you pick up only by experience. Beyond not eating a peanut buttered bagel during a job interview, what are some ways to put your best foot forward?
1. Start as early as possible in the summer. Don't sleep till noon and say you'll worry about in the afternoon. By then the people you need to see may be out, or in meetings; if you get started in the morning and they are tied up, you can always come back in the afternoon. Don't say I'll "relax" a few days and then start job hunting. Job hunting takes lots of waiting: for an interview, for the person to be in, for a decision to be made. Security, credit, or drug checks may be required. You can easily lose a week or two of possible earnings by procrastinating. If you are suffering serious end-of-school burnout, however, a few days to recover may be in order.
2. Become a detective in sniffing out all those cleverly designed come-ons for telemarketers and timeshare salespeople. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with either of those jobs. But if that isn't the job you want, you have to know that "mountain guide" is timeshare sales lingo for "showing persons timeshare properties in the mountains and doing a sales pitch."
3. Allow extra time for finding the location of an interview, either by scouting it out ahead of time, or giving yourself an extra 15 to 30 minutes. Companies can be hard to find, with signs for five or six offices that are difficult to read on a quick drive-by.
4. If you don't hear from a company, check back. The best job hunting advice my dad ever gave me was something he learned on a brief stint as head of a manufacturing company. If the job hunter didn't come back at least once, my dad felt the person didn't really want the job that badly. And so Dad wouldn't hire him. Of course you can make yourself a pest. Go by the stated rules: don't call if they say "don't call."
5. If possible, take all the information you need along with you to fill out applications, including previous employers' names, addresses and phone numbers.
6. Dress one grade "better" than you think would be necessary for the job you are applying for: casually nice for a factory job (not Sunday best); dressy for a department store or receptionist job. Things that should go without saying, but probably need to be said: clean, dry, combed, hair; clean fingernails; not too short of skirt; probably no skater pants (unless applying for work at the mall video arcade).
Finally for parents, remember that just because there are pages of job openings listed in the paper and there seem to be "Help Wanted" signs on every store in town, 75 percent of the jobs probably aren't appropriate for your student worker. If you weed out all the sales, truck driver, baby-sitting, permanent positions, and specific-skills-needed jobs, there may be only a couple of real options available. Have patience with your teen or young adult, remembering how stressful it is to look for work. While in some cases a deadline may need to be set for a young adult who doesn't seem to want to work, remember the goal for both of you is maintaining a good relationship while your child enters the world of paid employment.
What are your best job hunting tips or stories? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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