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Word on the Street: Teen Job Readiness

Word on the Street: Teen Job Readiness

Summer is almost here and teens are gearing up for summer work experience, right?! Well… maybe.

The landscape for teen employment has shifted in the last decade since the Recession, leaving the focus on teen job acquisition on a new playing field.

Most teens would seek jobs for some extra spending money and maybe for some experience to put on their resume for future employability, but that may not be so easy any more.


Although teen employment typically rises in the summer, this PEW Research Center article outlined the recent decline being related to fewer low-skill or entry-level positions available and shorter summer breaks. With school ending later and starting earlier in the summers, this leaves little time for teens to devote to work.

More students are also enrolled in high school or college courses in the summer, engaging in unpaid community service work as part of their graduation requirements or taking unpaid internships, which are not counted as employment through the Bureau of Labor. There are more working-age teens today compared to the year 2000, but they are not actually being employed.

As PBS Newshour reports, with so many students focused on college as their next steps, there has been a growing shortfall in those qualified in skilled trades. Educational institutions have focused a significant amount of attention on students heading to college rather than preparing them for the workforce.

With Baby Boomers preparing to leave the workforce, there will likely be major gaps in those prepared in trades like electricians, plumbers and other tech skills.

Changes in the relationships between business and educational institutions need to change to encourage students to look at careers that require a high school diploma, but not necessarily a Bachelor’s degree.

Ponder this:

  • 52% of teens don’t know what career they want to pursue
  • 64% pick the wrong major in college

Georgetown University suggests in their report ‘Failure to Launch’: “young people tend to be more vulnerable to the cyclical economic fluctuations than other age groups. There are several reasons for this. First, young people tend to have less firm-specific human capital, and as such they require an upfront investment in training and professional development.”

In other words, employers are less likely to invest their time and energy into a young person who may not stick with the particular career area they are applying for.

Food for thought…

What if teens were choosing volunteer opportunities and jobs with a focus on a future career in mind rather than just “making some spending money for the summer.”


What if teens could demonstrate more skill and employability before they apply for the jobs that are available to help them stand out among the crowd.

As a professional who has interviewed, hired and let go a fair amount of employees, I can attest that there are some key factors that make a potential employee more desirable than others in the hiring process. When I meet a student who has a clear sense of who they are, what is important to them and that their intentions in working for my organization are for their overall personal and professional growth, I am more likely to hire them, regardless of their technical experience.


Here are a few tips we have put together to help students stand out in this changing workforce game to give them a leg up in the journey towards employment:


1. What’s your WHY?

If your sole intention to get a job is to make some extra cash, you may experience some challenges in the job satisfaction and career advancement front. No matter your age or experience, when you are engaging in activities that match our interests, we tend to stay more engaged and put more effort towards those tasks. Many teens aren’t sure what they like or what they are good at, so we encourage taking personality, skill and/or interest surveys to begin to explore your strengths and compatibilities.

Explore a few key assessments here at Career One Stop.

When one has a clear goal you are working toward, it increases motivation and can help focus our direction.”

It is also really helpful to explore your goals, beyond just making money, when considering seeking a summer or after-school job, internship or volunteer opportunity. When one has a clear goal you are working toward, it increases motivation and can help focus our direction. It can be overwhelming to search through job listings, but when you have an idea of what you are looking to earn or what skills you are hoping to attain, it can make it easier to sort through.

Some common goals:

  • Buying a car
  • Saving for college
  • Gaining work experience
  • Clarifying career aspirations
  • Helping out family
  • Traveling
  • Paying for other expenses like phone, clothing, Prom, etc.

Having difficulty figuring out your WHY? We encourage you to reach out to a family member, a school counselor or another trusted adult in your life who is encouraging, knows you well and can spend some time exploring your options with you.


2. Showcase Your Talents

Whether or not the positions you are applying for require you to fill out an application, building a resume is a valuable exercise that will help you in the interview process. By organizing your experience, skills and intentions in one place, it creates an easy reference for both you and the employer to highlight your fit with the job.

When you build a resume, you are showcasing your experience, making it easy for the employer to know how to reach you, and can demonstrate your attention to detail. Be sure to choose a modern, clean and uncluttered template and regularly update your resume to include keywords for the position you are seeking and ensuring you can demonstrate that you are a match with the company’s needs.

Your presence online can also either make or break your chances in this day and age.

Regardless of whether they are legally able to do so, company’s are often searching the world wide web to get a better sense of the character and personality they might be hiring before or after your interview.

Ensuring you either keep your profiles private or you ensure the images, communication and affiliations you post are those desirable by employers. Getting drunk on a Friday night and posting your shenanigans will certainly not go over well. Clean up your current accounts, ensure you have a simple email address, preferably with your name in it, and create a LinkedIn account to create a place to represent yourself professionally online.


3. Be your own best Hype Wo/Man

When you make it past the application stage to the interview stage, now it’s time to show them what you’ve got. First impressions are a real thing, and how you present yourself through your dress, communication and quite frankly, what you have to say about yourself. If an employer isn’t looking for you to show up as your best self, then quite frankly, they may not be worth working for!

Show up to your interview dressed professionally, with your hair neat, makeup and jewelry minimal, neutral colors, nails clean and ready to impress. In general, you want your personality and your face to be what they are looking at, not your outfit.

No matter what position you are interviewing for, you are demonstrating to the interviewer that you are conscientious and take have taken the interview very seriously.

In almost every interview, some form of the question: “Tell me about yourself” will come up as a way to get the conversation going. It is important to be prepared for this question, because how you answer can set the tone for the rest of the interview.

We call the answer to this question your ‘Elevator Pitch.’ The idea being, if you only had an elevator ride to introduce yourself to someone important that you wanted to be sure you connected with again, what would you say? An elevator pitch is usually around 30 seconds to one minute, but no longer than two minutes in length.

Your personal Elevator Pitch usually includes:

  • Who you are? your name, current job title (student in your case) and company/school.
  • How you are qualified? What have you accomplished that is quantifiable or has made an impact similar to the work you are applying to do.
  • Why are you here? What do you know about the company or position that inspires you or you are excited about?
  • What do you want? What are your ambitions? What do you want to learn or experience while at the company.

Be prepared to answer this question succinctly and with passion. Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up! This is your chance to shine. And practice, practice, practice…it will make it easier to find the right words and to keep it tight.


4. Show up Strong

When you walk into an interview, know that you are interviewing the company and the team as much as they are interviewing you. Do your research before you walk in the door, explore the company philosophy, mission and team. Have questions prepared that are important to you including what tasks you might be doing, what the hours are, what a typical work day looks like, who you will be reporting to. This is your one opportunity to really try to understand if this job will be a good fit for you.

It can also be somewhat stressful to be in an interview. It is important to appear calm, confident and yet, not too cocky. And learn to keep fidgeting to a minimum.

A few of our favorite strategies for feeling prepared:

  • Breathe: Here is a simple video on Box Breathing. A technique to reset and calm your nervous system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g5Ol25y9Xs
  • Create affirmations to repeat to yourself in the mirror before your interview:
    1. I am capable
    2. I am can do this
    3. I am an excellent employee
  • Fold your hands in your lap or take notes to keep your hands busy. Avoid playing with your hair or clothing.

Finally, show up early, be prepared and eliminate distractions. When planning your arrival, account for traffic, parking and filling out paperwork. It is important to show up at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. Have your resume and cover letter plus a notepad and pen ready for the interview. Have your references contact information either printed out or in your phone so you can transfer them to an application easily. Turn your phone on silent for the interview and stash it away out of sight. You want to be fully present and attentive to the interviewer.


5. Be Persistent

Unless the interviewer tells you otherwise, it is important to follow up after your interview by email, or even a handwritten card, to thank them for the interview and to affirm your interest in the position. An attitude of gratitude and respect for their time and attention goes a long way.

In the case that you did not get the position you were hoping for, when one door closes another one opens. Stay persistent. Refine your resume, review your elevator pitch, and revisit your focus and goals. Keep applying and keep learning from each experience what worked and what didn’t. It can take time, so start early and devote time and attention to your search every day. It takes real effort to land the right opportunity.

Teens are going to seek jobs for all kinds of reasons, but best to start them on the right foot, creating positive and healthy learning environments for their long-term growth as independent and empowered young people.


For more ways to help your teens or students to be job ready, contact Station Co-Lab for a variety of workshops and courses to meet their needs.

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