The dilemma most kids face today is that they can’t get a job without work experience, and they can’t get work experience without a job. Maybe, if they are like me and an immigrant to the United States, they were delayed in their ability to even get a work permit.
To have a job in United States, you first need to have a social security number. Since I was not born here, I had to apply for citizenship in order to get a social. This process alone can take years to finish and there are fees that one has to pay. This is especially difficult if you are unable to have a job first. This can discourage teenagers like me who, when they finally get their work permit, come to the conclusion there is no work to be found.
Companies often want someone with prior experience so they tend to hire fewer teens. From an employer’s point of view, this makes sense. Why hire some clumsy, temperamental teenager who you’d have to train for days, when you can get someone who already knows what they’re doing.
Most kids don't want jobs because they believe the payoff is not worth the time. After all, $10 an hour on the weekends won’t help you save up for college, and standing for hours on end ringing up bags of groceries for a couple extra dollars in your pocket doesn’t seem like a good use of time. That's why finding a job that won’t bore you to death, but will also give you a decent paycheck, is difficult.
Here are the common steps I encountered while on the job hunt:
Step 1: Finding a job that suits you
I started my job hunt by looking at bigger stores. I imagined myself like internet sensation Alex from Target, but something about Belkis from Walmart didn't really sound right. Then I thought about fast food restaurants. After all, Chipotle could always use an extra hand. But, smelling like tortillas after my shift is not something I was looking forward to. I later turned to retail stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Dicks Sporting Goods and TJ-Maxx with the main incentive of employee discounts.
Step 2: Fill out numerous applications
You can go to stores directly and ask the manager for an application, but most are done online. I started to apply to DSW, but realized that I could not answer questions regarding previous job references, so I decided not to finish the application. It is overwhelming feeling like I somehow got the short end of the stick and not being able to do anything about it. I am a proud immigrant but I wish it didn't hold me back in my job search. I realized that if I kept getting discouraged I would never finish any application. I am already at the bottom so I may as well go up.
Step 3: Find references
References are recommendations from people who have seen you do good work and are willing to talk about it. Reach out to any previous community service programs you have been a part of, and kindly ask if they would write you a reference letter. Teachers and coaches also work. My math teacher, who is also my math club leader, was my reference. I felt that he has seen me work hard, lead my group, and bring people together to problem solve effectively.
Step 4: Create and upload a resume
This is challenging mainly because I didn’t see how me taking two advanced placement classes and being a member of the math club could possibly coincide with being a shoe saleswoman. Nonetheless, I was committed to being honest in my application process.
Step 5: Hit submit!
Waiting for a phone call or an email can be nerve wracking to some. I don’t know if I will get accepted, but the fear of being rejected no longer holds me back. The application process taught me that there is nothing wrong with putting yourself out there, and there's also nothing wrong with trying something new.