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Applying for Your First Job

Applying for Your First Job
By: Leah Kackley

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, the working man is the happy man, the idle man is miserable. We need to teach our teenagers this principle of life by encouraging them to secure that first job. Working a part time job around their school hours helps to build time management skills, the life lessons and self-confidence that working provides build character.

Finding that first job may be a little different than it was 30 years ago, but the basic tenants of securing and keeping that job don’t really change. Getting some time-tested advice on the subject is always useful, so we talked to someone who has hired well over 1000 people in the last 15 years. Matthew Nasekos is the Chief Operations Officer for the Madison, MS and County Line Road, Jackson, MS Chick-fil-A restaurants. For their company and many others, job opportunities are listed online, and the initial contact with their human resource department is handled online as well. The resume should be completed and submitted electronically. However, the actual resume is of minor importance at this point. Nasekos says he’s looking for stability and competence in the use of language and critical thinking. It is better to spend time preparing for the interview and focusing on workplace skills and ethics.

Once a young person gets an interview secured, it’s so important to remember that there are only a few seconds to make an impression. Nasekos says: “I am looking for someone that is on time, sharp looking, has good eye contact, smiles, pays attention, has an ability to communicate. Kids that are late or are not confident by demonstrating the former are immediately dismissed. Those that are early, dressed well, and are able to connect with verbal and non-verbal communication will go far.” Young employees cannot assume that simply because they have showed up, they have the job. They need to be respectful and exhibit a desire to work. During the interview, most questions are welcomed by prospective employers. It’s reasonable to question compensation and benefits, as well as planned time away, because the hope is that the person interviewed intends to stay with the company for a while. 

Keeping this new job is obviously important, but teenagers need to understand that they must treat their work hours differently from their leisure or even their school hours. Character and productivity matter. Nasekos emphasizes: “Kids must work fast, efficiently, and with integrity. Be dependable. Keep your word.” And in this day and age, it’s important for kids to remember that those ubiquitous phones can be their nemesis. In fact, Nasekos is clear: “Get on your phone and lose your job.” 

The job to look for should line up with the teenager’s interests and abilities. Nothing is “beneath” him, and nothing is “above” him either. If a kid has a big dream, give him the encouragement that might help him take an otherwise scary chance on himself. And if you know someone in a managerial role who interviews prospective employees, ask if that person would be willing to schedule a mock interview (but be willing to offer a fee for that service). Being able to go into an interview with confidence and some learned skills can make a positive difference.  

Here is Matthew Nasekos’ final advice to teens: “Find work that you enjoy and that fits your gifts. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And never ever burn a bridge.”  Get those kids out there and guide them as they find their first jobs. It’s one of the most important steps on the way to adulthood.

This is part one of a special three-part series in helping teens transition into adulthood. Coming soon: links to Part Two & Part Three.

Leah Kackley lives, works and homeschools in the Rez/Fannin area with her husband Jason and their three kids. Writing this article reminded her of all the jobs she had as a teenager and college student, and she’s grateful for those bosses who taught her so much!

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