Advice for Teens Seeking Employment

This afternoon I happened to be sitting in a fast food restaurant, and overheard a father giving terrible job-hunting advice to his daughter. It reminded me of an article I wrote in 2010, which mostly targeted adults looking for work during the recession:

The dad today was unfortunately leaving a lot on the table with respect to his daughter. She asked, “What should I put in my resume that I will give to the pet store?” He replied, “Well, don’t put that you are frequently late and that you don’t want to learn.” She agreed. And he continued, “You want to say that you are a hard worker.”

The daughter added, “Mom wrote out a list of my skills. She said one my skills is that I am interested in learning about pets.” Dad replied, “Yeah, that’s good.”

I wanted so badly to visit their table and borrow the kid for a good conversation, knowing that if we’d had the chance to talk, she’d be employed before 10 a.m. tomorrow!

You see, it’s not in her best interest to start with a resume. And it’s not in her best interest to start with the store’s online application. Instead she should:

  1. Put on her very best outfit
  2. Brush her teeth and hair
  3. Visit the pet store and ask to meet the manager in person
  4. Tell the manager, “Hi Sally, my name is Mary. I absolutely love animals, and I love shopping here. I am 16 years old. I earn good grades, I have my worker’s permit, and I want to start working here this coming Monday right after school. I’ll show up on time, and with a smile. I will do what you ask, and you will never hear me complain. Do you want me to start in the cat section, or would the reptile section be better?”

Sally the manager is either going to 1) hire Mary on the spot, 2) tell Mary that she’s impressed and she should apply for when a position becomes available, or 3) feel anxious that Mary will eventually take the manager’s job!

At this point, Mary should make every effort to INTERVIEW the store manager, and not the other way around. Mary should ask, “Sally, in you opinion, what characteristics make the BEST employee at this store?” Mary should listen very, very closely to Sally’s words. Those words should be part of Mary’s thank you note…

Mary thanks Sally and says, “Sally, I am thrilled to have finally met you. May I have your business card to keep in my file?”

Mary leaves the store and IMMEDIATELY goes home to write a sincere thank you note. “Thank you for our great meeting. I can’t wait to be working for you and helping your customers — and the company!” Mary includes notes about how she will represent Sally’s “dream” employee using Sally’s own words.

She stamps it, hand addresses it to Sally, then drives to the post office right away, with the goal of Sally receiving the note the very NEXT day. Sally’s socks will be knocked off: “Wow, what a teenager! What a great note! And she snail mailed it! What great respect! Wow!”

Mary returns on Monday after school, either as an employee in training, or as a prospect saying to Sally, “I understand there is a lot of employee turnover in this industry. But I will be dedicated, Sally. When do you anticipate having an opening that I can fill with passion?”

Good job, Mary!

The resume is a formality, and you should never start with it. Instead, make yourself known in person, and always start with the relationship.