Dear parents of teens, this is for them …
As we mentioned last week, job hunting is never fun. The looming certainty of rejection (because, no matter how charming you are, you won’t get every job) is not the kind of emotional battering anyone welcomes. But, you might as well learn how to deal with it now, when you are young and resilient, ‘cause there’s a lifetime more of this ahead.
So, last week we covered the basic questions of “what do I want to do” and “where do I go to look for a job”. Assuming that you’ve got that covered, it’s now time to address the “paperwork”. By that, we mean it’s time to write the résumé, the cover letter, to know how to fill out the job application form (neatly, like your mom would want you to), to tget those recommendations and, if you want to go all out, get yourself some business cards.
Writing the Dreaded Résumé
You need not panic (or perhaps that’s just me…). At this stage in your young innocent life, you just need to keep it simple. I would forget about all the debates on that various résumé formats: functional vs. chronological vs. combination. A simple chronological layout will do the job perfectly. Bad pun intended.
The website, Teens4hire.com, has a great résumé sample here. It includes all the basics points that you have to cover. Of course, unlike the example there, if you’ve had more than one previous job, you need to list that too, in REVERSE chronological order, starting with the newest job listed at the top (because your most recent experience might well be your most relevant). And, if you don’t have anything to fit in certain sections, like say “special talent”, just drop that part and don’t torture yourself over it.
- Watch out for typos. Don’t rely solely on the spell-check. You want to reread your résumé word-for-word. A silly mistake (like the classic their/there or from/form) could reflect on you.
- Use an easily readable font. You want to make the job of reading your résumé as easy and pleasant as possible. No colored fonts. Please. This is no place for cutesy.
- Use the “nicer” printer paper if you have it.
- You need to have fresh copies of your résumé with you whenever you are out job hunting, EVEN if you are filling out an application. Keep them neatly arranged in a folder. Nothing would leave a worst impression than handing out a rumpled résumé.
The Cover Letter
Probably just as dreaded a document to write, but if you are sending out your résumé either by mail or email, you will need a cover letter. As with the résumé, you want to keep your cover letter very simple. Here’s all is should contain:
- An introductory sentence to explain why you are writing and which job you are submitting for.
- A sentence about yourself (studies, work experience) and why this position is of interest and why your skills/experience/accomplishments are relevant. You may cite examples here.
- Concluding sentence indicating that you would looooooooooove to discuss your skills, in person, over an interview and when might they be available. You need to refer to the enclosed/attached résumé and other documents, like a letter of reference. And, THANK the reader for his/her time and consideration.
- See a typical format here. Make sure to address the letter properly. Check spelling of the person’s name. Never assume gender. You know that some men could be called Carol and some women are called Kevin – I know two! If need be, make a call to check.
- Make sure to include all your contact information. Double check it. Here is not the time for missing digits in the phone number.
- Keep it to one page only
- Customize: You don’t want to look like you are sending out a form letter. Make sure to address the position and state why you are interested in it.
- Highlight your qualities and skills relevant to the job in question but don’t repeat word-for-word what is already detailed in your résumé.
- Use the nicest paper you have on hand.
- Don’t use gimmicks like colored paper to get extra attention. That will just get the reader to roll their eyes. Unless you have a super-creative presentation and unless it fits the job, it’s best to remain conservative in this case.
- Sign the letter (you have no idea how easy it is to forget this). Use your favorite pen in blue or black ink (not purple!) and your neatest handwriting.
The Job Application Form
Even though you have your résumé with you, some employers need you to fill out their custom application form. Anyway, you will be looking more professional by showing the potential employer that you are well prepared, résumé in hand, and serious about getting a job. Job application forms are really easy to fill out if you follow these tips when applying in person:
- Write extra neatly and follow directions. Yes, like you have to do with tests & quizzes. How the application looks will reflect on your neatness and potential for attention to detail on the job.
- Check your spelling (duh!)
- Don’t leave blank spaces or write n/a (for Not Applicable) on questions that may not apply to you.
- Be as accurate as possible with all information and dates. In any case, this information should already be on your résumé and can easily be copied from there.
- Bring your own (favorite) pen.
Have you done some volunteer work or even paid work for family or family friend and they appreciated your work? Go ahead and ask them for a letter of recommendation. Something short and sweet will do, as long as it mentions a good reason – or two – about why someone would want to hire you. At your age, the simple initiative of having gone to solicit a recommendation letter will speak volumes. Once you have the letter, make copies and save the original in a neat file folder. Better yet, ask for an electronic version. And, if you can’t get a written recommendation, ask if you can provide the person’s name as a reference for your work. You can include their names in a “references” section at the bottom of your résumé.
Ok, so you don’t really need business cards. But they are now so inexpensive to produce at home, that it’s completely worth it. Scenario: Your parents’ friends know someone who is looking for a summer intern. Would you rather hand them a scribbled piece of paper or a nice clean business card that has all your contact info… Thought so!
Now, you know about WHERE to start looking for a job and HOW to prepare your résumé and other materials. Go ahead and start making some calls! Early next week, we’ll give you our tips for a successful job interview