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5 Tips for Getting Your First Job: In High School or Beyond.

Updated on February 5, 2012

Appearances are important!

That is an awesome punk look.  It is not, however, an awesome job hunting look.
That is an awesome punk look. It is not, however, an awesome job hunting look.
"I'm Todd, I'll be little Jimmy's Party Host tonight," aren't the words this guy will be saying.  He isn't getting that job.
"I'm Todd, I'll be little Jimmy's Party Host tonight," aren't the words this guy will be saying. He isn't getting that job. | Source
Frankie may have told me to relax in the 80s, but this guy isn't working at Toys R Us, either.
Frankie may have told me to relax in the 80s, but this guy isn't working at Toys R Us, either.

There's no second chance for a first impression.

I owned an arcade for several years that was right down the road from a large High School. I now work as a manager for a company that is pretty much an arcade attached to a pizzeria. My wife worked for Hot Topic while she was in college. All of these seem to be places that are popular choices for teen's first jobs. My wife and I have seen lots of applications, resumes, and applicants; some made the cut, some didn't.

Here are a few things that will help move your application up the pile. They won't guarantee you a job, nothing does that. From experience I can tell you that some of the worst looking applicants make good employees and vice versa. There were some stellar applicants that didn't make it past a couple of weeks: they either quit or got fired.

1) Get a professional email address. For years the application process was on paper, now it's 99% online. If your email address is, you probably are ok, but not great. is inappropriate. Much better is simply

2) Use standard English on your resume. Abbreviations and shorthand are great...when texting. Capitalization, complete sentences, and whole words stand out about the rest. "ur the best. i wanna be yer slave," isn't going to get you a job. "I like your company (product, etc) and think working for you would be rewarding," is trite, but much more likely to be noticed. Likewise, if you have a cute voicemail message, change it to something simple while you're job hunting. While your message might make them laugh, unless they know who they are leaving a message for, they may not leave you one. Likewise, you message might make them reconsider any offer they were going to make.

3) Tell the truth. You need to be clear and up-front both in your application or resume and during your interview. If you don't know the answer, tell the interviewer so. Lying your way through questions you don't understand is obvious to the interviewer; they've probably seen it hundreds or thousands of times. If you suddenly realize you gave a stupid answer, go back and correct it as soon as possible. Merely say something like, "Mr. X, when you asked me about why I wanted to work here and I said, 'We're only in it for the money,' I was thinking about an old Frank Zappa album. I really want to work here because, ..."

4) Appearance is important. Even if you are just picking up or dropping off applications, you have a high chance of seeing the person who will be interviewing you. My District Manager loves to interview people as they drop off applications. Luckily for most applicants, he isn't out at our store often, but always expect an instant interview. That being said, show up looking nice. Research the company before hitting their door: talk to their employees, Google them, look at the company website. Is there a dress code? Are your purple hair and sleeve tats a problem? Try a place where they aren't an instant, "NO." Don't show up meeting the company dress code (in other words, don't show up at Target in khaki slacks and a red polo), but show up in something that would be acceptable at a Church or civic function.

5) Following up is good, calling daily is disaster. Most people with hiring authority will be moderately surprised if they receive a post-card or note thanking them for the interview. It will make you stick out in their mind. They will not be surprised if you call. Lots of applicants call to check on their status. All the time. It gets old. Since it's one of the traditional tips to follow up, a phone call is the knee-jerk reaction. Most interviewers will end with something that means simply, "Don't call us, we'll call you." Even if it seemed like they promised you something, they may have been unwilling or unable to tell you no in person.

When I was in High School, I hated it. I already owned my own business in addition to working for my parents. My senior year was a semester long and half-a-day at that. To accomplish that, I took something called "Marketing Education." It was simply the higher-end vocational education class that was aimed at kids who were in managerial or semi-managerial spots. Basically, most of my fellow students were the ones who were training the new hires at their jobs.

While that kind of class is generally not on the college track, it can be useful to at least go by and talk to the folks who teach it--whether or not you intend to take the class. They've been helping people enter the job market for years (and in some cases decades). They'll steer you in the right direction. Additionally, if you do take the class, you'll learn a little basic business education as well as having help finding a job if you need it.

As for a resume, don't sweat it. Entry level jobs don't require a resume 99.9% of the time. When they ask for job references on the application, put down the teachers that you've done "A" work for and make it clear that they're teachers, not employers. Be sure that the teachers know that you're using them for references. Likewise, the personal references shouldn't be your best friends, they should be adults who know you. The pastor at your church, your Boy or Girl Scout Troop leader, or your next-door neighbor that you mow the lawn for: they need to be people who know you well enough they can feel comfortable talking about you.


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    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 6 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Thanks all! I just got back from an interview where the guy put his "previous employer" as his General Manager's name instead of the business name. Luckily one of our other managers knew him and could put in a good word.

      So, I would add, helping your kids fill out their first application online might be good practice. Most are straight forward, but things we take for granted, you might not think about the first or second time you get a job.

    • jennjenn519 profile image

      jennjenn519 6 years ago from Cocoa, Fl

      Great ideas that I am going to share with my daugheter as soon as she gets home from school today.

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Thank you for some very useful information.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Good ideas. I'm going to show this to my almost-16-year-old as he is soon to start looking for a first job.

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 6 years ago from Abilene, TX

      I see all of these mistakes on a weekly, if not daily basis. Especially really stupid email addresses. Putting your 16 year old best friend down as a reference is pretty common, too.

      The guy who does most of the hiring at my store doesn't view the inability to capitalize anything as a problem, but he still hasn't figured out how to get a log-in to the company website, despite working there for over a year.

      Persistence is good, but in any type of fast-paced food-service environment, calling is bad. Especially if you pick the lunch rush. That'll move your application to the round file. Even if you don't understand what you've done, the managers will think you are unbearably rude.

    • JKilkenny profile image

      JKilkenny 6 years ago from Las Vegas

      I've heard all of this except the "don't call daily" tip. I've actually heard it both everyday, every other day, every week, or just follow up once. It depends on who you ask, I guess.

      The rest of the article seems incredibly obvious, like don't use an email address Really? Do people actually do this? lol

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 6 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Thanks. I think the key to finding a job the first time is just the big step of getting out there and filling out applications. You have to maximize your chances at every step, though.

    • mariale2003 profile image

      mariale2003 6 years ago

      Very graphic and completely very well described tips, to get a job even is you have just a little experience.

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 6 years ago from Abilene, TX

      My driver's license picture is a perfect example of what not to look like when you're job hunting. Everyone I've worked with at my current company who has noticed my DL pic has called everyone over to say, "Hey, did you see what Doug looked like before he started here?" I cleaned up BEFORE going job hunting.

    • holdmycoffee profile image

      holdmycoffee 6 years ago

      Great hub, with nice ideas. I also liked how you used pictures as examples. Make the topic a lot more interesting when you put a face on it!