by maralyn ellis
Think about what you're interested in and why... do yourself a favour and “aim low!”
Are you interested in working with children because you enjoy their energy and think about being a teacher?
Apply at a local kids’ program or find a good babysitting gig.
Do you enjoy music because you’re addicted to spotify, play guitar and want to start a band some day?
Apply at a local mall's CD store or with a musical instrument seller or equipment renter.
What does "aim low" mean exactly? Particularly if this is your first job, it means getting any job and not being too picky about what you’re doing! There are many fun examples on the internet of people’s early jobs. Most notably, Brad Pitt wore a chicken costume and danced around in front of a restaurant to attract customers... that’s sort of like acting! And Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, worked as a camp counsellor... that’s sort of like running a country!
Tell everyone you know you are looking for work—they may know, or learn of, a job just for you!
This includes relatives—be sure they tell their coworkers—and also friends, neighbours and even that nice lady at the corner store.
You recall the expression "it's who you know." This is how you tap into the “hidden job market.” The majority of jobs are never even advertised and are filled through networking and connections. So be sure to tap into the way most people find jobs!
Create a great resume that reflects who you are and what you’re good at!
There are lots of great resume templates. Click here for one I use or find a template you like online (students who use myBlueprint.ca or another tool at school can find a resume generator there).
Your resume will be informed by Steps 1 and 2 above. A good resume will incorporate what you’re interested in—and why—in your "objective statement," click here for how to write great objectives. Networking and connecting to people will help you see what type of work might be available, and allow you to potentially target your resume content towards that specific position, for example...
Is there a pet daycare around the corner from you that you would just love to work or volunteer at?
Make sure your resume includes all that time you spent at the stables mucking out horse stalls.
Applying to work at an amusement park for the summer?
You could list roller coasters as one of your hobbies or interests to make the connection!
Approach people with your resume, ideally with specific work opportunities in mind!
Your uncle owns a golf course and you think about being a landscaper?
Approach him to do greens maintenance… although you might aim lower and start off as a ball picker!
The people you approach can range from your personal network to local businesses. A favourite pastime of mine (seriously, I love it) with my many nieces and nephews (and I’ve even occasionally been hired to do this) is going on a Great Job Hunt (it’s like an Easter Egg Hunt… but without the chocolate eggs!). We jump in my car, armed with twenty great resumes, a clipboard, paper and pen. My niece/nephew points out a place they would deign to work at and jumps out…
“Is the manager in? I was wondering if you are hiring? Here is a copy of my resume, I’d be very interested in working here. I will be right back with that application filled out (that’s what the clipboard in the car is for!)… or …Yes, I will fill out your online application. Thank you, I look forward to an interview.”
Except hopefully it’s a two-sided conversation! And don’t forget to record where you applied and who’s hiring and who to follow up with. I might even reward us with a treat at the end. Remember, if you don’t get any interviews or a job from this round... repeat the whole process. You'll be less and less picky about where you’re willing to work (aim lower and lower!), especially if it's your first job!
Don’t want to aim quite so low for next summer?
Start now by thinking about where you’d like to work during the school year or next summer and plant the seeds. This means cultivating a network of contacts at companies you’d like to work at or accepting a volunteer position. It takes work, but it pays off big.
Think it’s a waste of time to work at a probably go-nowhere job?
A friend’s son with autism who was not really suited to a typical entry-level retail job got his start as a lettuce picker and eventually became a coder.
What in the world can a future programmer learn from working a summer job with a local lettuce farmer?
Like Brad Pitt in a chicken suit or Prime Minister Trudeau as a camp counsellor, don’t undervalue the lessons learned at your first jobs. My friend’s son learned a lot from his job on that farm—he planted, cultivated and picked lettuce, beets and other produce—which he now uses in his current role as a software engineer (the skills, that is, not the vegetables he picked). Necessary skills that everyone needs to learn, like:
• How to make conversation with coworkers.
• How to read the boss and see when he’s not happy.
• What good quality means and how to get there.
• How to work hard even when you're tired and working conditions are bad.
To this wise worker, it is better to learn and practice these job skills in a position like lettuce picker than on your dream job! So aim low and get that perfect job... the job to build your resume... and to build your character!