Finding a Job as a Teenager: A Personal Narrative
January 27, 2014
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One issue that is becoming more and more relevant in the high school community as summer approaches is how to find a job. This is often difficult for an unskilled student, a fact that is only made worse by the current poor job economy. Having gone through the trying experience of a job hunt myself, I believe it would be useful to share my personal thoughts and the tips I have gained with my peers.
1. Confidence is great, but experience is better.
I began my search for a job last summer, feeling the need to have some sort of spending money for summer. As the ignorant kid I was, I had no doubt in my mind I would be an easy hire. I strolled the streets of downtown Palo Alto confidently, walking into restaurants that caught my eye and saying “one application please!” My confidence often lasted only up to this point. The person at the cash register would look me up and down, then ask me my age. After saying I was 16, I was often told that I was too young, and I would slink out feeling defeated. Many restaurants would ask me about my experience level and I would give them my resume…. unfortunately a volunteer job at a summer camp is not as applicable to a restaurant job as I had thought. The problem I tried to explain is that I couldn’t have experience if nobody would give me a job. Upon hearing this, store managers would nod their head and tell me I would hear back from them in a tone that clearly told me that I would not.
2. Dressing nicely is more important than you think.
One restaurant I visited more than once was a small burger joint on University Avenue. I went in there many times. Things progressed for me, from being told there were no applications left, to getting an application, all the way up to having an interview set. My level of interview experience was almost nonexistant, so I decided to wear a t-shirt and some white summer shorts. Things felt like they were going well until I got up to walk out the door. “I’m just trying to give you some advice, man” the manager said, “but you should really consider dressing up a bit next time.” He told me I would hear back from them within a week… I never did.
3. Persistence in the face of rejection is key.
After all this rejection I was starting to think I was not the dream employee I thought I was. Despite my obvious skill in all fields of expertise, these store managers did not seem to see the merit of hiring me! I had turned in so many applications, it was hard to keep track of them, yet I had only heard back from a couple. I had spent a good three weeks looking, and was beginning to feel my only hope of income would be pity jobs my neighbors would give me. But in this time of despair I was saved by one special interview. I was at Peet’s coffee, of course now wearing a polo shirt after learning from my previous mistake. Going into the interview I felt better than before, a feeling I can only attribute to my other interview experiences that had all led to rejection. The process had been difficult, but it showed me that the most important learning experiences are those in which you fail. I had learned from my failures, and surprisingly the interviewer hired me on the spot. Within two days I received another job offer from Starbucks. I went from desperation to having a choice of jobs.
I now currently am working at Starbucks. I would by no means call this my “dream job,” and I really don’t think making coffee is my life calling. However despite my higher aspirations, I have learned a great deal from this job and the people I work with. I now have that experience I had needed under my belt in order to move on. This process opened my eyes to many of the difficulties of the working world, something I had previously been oblivious to. I learned that getting a job as a teenager was not as easy as I thought. More importantly, however, was the lesson that it is possible. I may have only learned to make a latte and mop a floor, but I feel as though my experience at Starbucks has prepared me for the things I will have to face in the future.