Getting a job while you’re at high school or uni can be a challenge. Many employers are looking for people with experience, and when you’ve never had a job before, it can be hard to explain why you’re right for the role you’re applying for. That’s why you need to get a little creative.
It’s important to understand that the term “experience” doesn’t necessarily refer to experience gained from another job.
Let’s say an employer is looking for someone with good teamwork skills. Have you ever played in a sports team? Or been part of a debating team? Or maybe even been on a committee? If yes, you can draw on those skills and make a note for your resume. As a team player you:
Understand the context of a team’s broader goals.
Can communicate clearly and work collaboratively.
Appreciate other skill sets and draw on them when needed — be it delegation or advancing your own skills.
Can listen to your manager and ask questions for clarification.
Understand the importance of being reliable.
Know how to motivate, encourage and bring a positive attitude.
Can mediate team conflict and negotiate with others to settle disputes.
Now, let’s say an employer is looking for someone who’s able to act quickly and stay calm in times of stress. Have you ever looked after your younger brother or sister when they’re screaming because your parents just left? Do you regularly babysit other kids? If yes then you have experience in:
Engaging others to make them feel calm and safe.
Being patient and kind in times of distress.
Organising and communicating activities.
Being adaptable to the varying needs of children.
Problem solving when kids get bored or restless.
Making people feel comfortable in your abilities.
See, you do have experience. Now we can push on with some confidence!
Preparing for a job
Before your job search starts, it’s important you:
Know what’s possible (and legal)
Depending on your age, there may be requirements about what jobs you can and can’t do, and how many hours you can work. Child employment laws place limits on certain types of work and the times in which you can work.
Restrictions differ according to your state or territory. For example, in New South Wales children can’t work during school hours, more than five consecutive days, or more than four hours on a school day. In Queensland, the minimum age for work is generally 13, and on a school day children can’t work more than four hours.
Be sure to do your research based on your state or territory to learn what’s relevant to you.
Know that it’s probably not for the long-term
Chances are your first job probably won’t be your dream job, so don’t stress if it’s not completely suited to your interests. Instead focus on the knowledge, skills and experience you can gain from your first job, as these will help you get a step closer to landing your dream job in the future.
Make sure you look for a job that offers flexibility. High school and uni classes aren’t scheduled to fit around employment, so you’ll need to think about which jobs you can fit around your study schedule. If you’re at uni, check out this article on 8 flexible jobs perfect for uni students for inspiration.
Create a great resume and cover letter
Your resume can help you make a good impression on potential employers. First impressions count and your resume may be the one and only thing you’ve got to make a good one.
Statistics tell us that employers spend just six seconds looking at a resume. With this in mind, your resume needs to stand out straight away. Follow these tips for writing a killer resume and cover letter and you’ll be on your way to doing just that.
There are certain industries that have peak times of growth, however, not all of these industries have the same peak hiring season. Take note of trends in seasonality and you can know when to strike with your resume.
As a job seeker, you have a much higher chance of landing a job if the timing suits the employer. An ice cream shop manager, for example, is probably most likely to employ new staff in the build-up to summer and school holidays. On the other hand, large corporate companies generally only accept applications for internships and graduate roles during autumn and winter so they have time to process them before the end of the year.
Personalise your search
When applying for jobs, don’t just cover the town with your resume. Do your research into each individual business and brainstorm ideas on why you’d be a good fit. In your cover letter, dot point these reasons along with why you’d like to work for the company.
If you can, take it a step further by finding out who does the hiring. You’ll capture a person’s attention much more if you address your letter with “Dear Mr Edwards”, rather than “To whom it may concern”. Finding out these details demonstrates to the employer your initiative.
Build on your skills
If you’re struggling to find a job, the old saying “beggars can’t be choosers” might apply. Your first job isn’t meant to be the best job you’re ever going to have, and it’s often not that glamorous. Try not to be too fussy and use even the worst jobs as a way to build your experience. Don’t get underpaid, taken advantage of or put yourself at risk, but do be willing to start from the bottom. Even if this means washing dishes, delivering food or stacking shelves at midnight, at least you’re gaining experience.
Make use of your contacts
A lot of the time in business it comes down to who you know not what you know. Maybe your mate’s workplace is short staffed? Perhaps your parent’s best friend owns a business? Is your sister planning on leaving her job soon to go travelling? Find a job through your connections and not only is the process simpler, you’re more likely to be treated well, given extra shifts and progress up the business ladder.
When the road to employment is long, it’s easy to let your lack of experience knock your confidence. If you find this is happening, think of ways to give yourself a confidence boost. Is there a local soup kitchen you could volunteer in? Could you donate some time to run errands in an office in exchange for a good reference? Does your school or town have a newsletter you could write some articles for? Are there jobs you could do for your parents in exchange for some cash? If you keep working on your skills, refine your resume, and remain persistent in your job hunt, you’re bound to find something sooner rather than later.
This is general information only and does not take account of your individual investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.
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