First jobs teach you a great deal about working with people, solving problems and taking initiative. Job hunting is more competitive than ever, making it essential for teens and young adults to study up on professional etiquette and hone their networking skills as early as possible. If you're starting a post-college career or looking for part-time work, follow these tips to stand out and land your first job.
Work for Family
If you have relatives who own businesses, find out if they're willing to take on extra help. Whether it's washing dishes, filing documents or greeting customers, your first job helps you develop skills that beef up your resume. Working for relatives offers another big advantage — you're guaranteed one-on-one time with the boss. Small business owners are used to wearing many hats, making them great mentors with valuable advice on how to be a smart leader, networker and decision-maker.
Talk to a Career Counselor
Don't overlook free career resources available at your high school or college. Guidance counselors often have information about career development or co-op programs that help high school students transition into entry-level careers or meet with local business owners. If you're in college, visit a career center to find out about job fairs and networking events where you can ask recruiters exactly what they look for in entry-level candidates.
Submit Resumes in Person
An attractive personality and determination go a long way when your experience is slim, but it's hard to make a great impression on an electronic application. If you're interested in local stores or small businesses, visit in person and ask to speak with the manager or owner. Give the manager a quick pitch of what you have to offer, and submit a resume in person, making sure to ask when you can follow up. Many busy managers are so swamped with work that they put off looking for help, so taking the initiative to make an introduction puts you ahead of the pack.
Get a Mentor
If you already have strong interests, research local professionals who work in your target industries. Social networking sites, chambers of commerce and business journals can help you generate a list of people who might be willing to speak with you. Many successful professionals are impressed by young people who seek out learning opportunities and are happy to share career guidance. Well-connected teachers or coaches can also be great mentors and help teens find their first jobs. Mentors have a front-row seat to your career development and personal growth, making them invested in your future and motivated to offer referrals.
Tap Into Your Extended Network
Everyone you know has a network. Instead of keeping your search to yourself, inform friends and family that you're looking for your first job. Open as many doors as you can by asking your close contacts to introduce you to other people who own businesses. Revise all your social media pages to highlight your skills, education and hobbies, so friends can easily refer prospective employers to your profiles to learn more about you.
Landing your first job exposes you to diverse people who can guide you to your next opportunity. Strong networking skills are the key to breaking down barriers and showing employers what makes you a great hire.
Photo courtesy of Trish Thornton at Flickr.com