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By Melinda Sacks
When it comes time to fill out an application, have your teen do it in pencil first, or do it with him. Misspelled words, illegible handwriting, and questions left unanswered give a bad impression.
Suggest your child bring the application home so you can review it together before handing it in to a potential employer.
If your child has never had a job before, it doesn't mean he has no relevant experience. Watching the kids for a neighbor, even if it wasn't for pay, is still babysitting. Awards, participation on teams, volunteer work, and sports, drama, or yearbook are all indicators of an applicant's level of responsibility and are worth including on an application.
You'll also need to have your child's social security number and, most likely, a work permit. While some employers won't ask for one, federal law states that anyone under 18 who has not graduated from high school must file a work permit. You can obtain one at your child's school, and follow the simple directions to complete and submit it.
Employers say they appreciate the persistent applicant who shows real interest in the company and the job. Encourage your child to drop by (looking clean and neat) to check on an application rather than just waiting to hear whether he got the job. The student who returns is the one who comes to mind when there is an opening, or when the decision of who to hire is made.
Jessica, a 15-year-old neighbor of ours who had no work experience, got hired at the local video store after dropping by weekly for four weeks. Her new boss told her he was impressed by her willingness to keep coming back.
Another of our son's 15-year-old friends finally landed a job working in a fast food stand at an amusement park he frequented because he was such a regular customer, the manager came to know and like him.
Equally important to showing enthusiasm and persistence is following directions. Pay attention to application rules and deadlines. If a company says it does not want to receive calls, don't call.
It is important to have the "what if you don't get the job" talk before it's too late. Remind your child that often people don't get the first few jobs for which they apply. Then assist him in writing a thank you note after an interview, which is always good practice. If your child doesn't get the job, he should consider asking what he could do better next time. Try to use a rejection as a learning experience, even though it may be painful.
After a summer of working indoors at the drug store, then quitting because he was bored, Alex decided he'd rather be outside and would like to work with children. We encouraged his interest because we'd watched him gravitate toward the young kids in a day program while we were on a family vacation. They liked him so much he ended up helping with activities almost every day.
On a whim, I called our local recreation department when we returned home, and found they had a counselor-in-training (CIT) program. Since Alex loves to chat with adults, his interview seemed to go well and he was offered a CIT position for three two-week sessions.
So last summer, Alex got up at 8 a.m. every morning to be a counselor-in-training at our city recreation department's summer camp. On school days, it is as if we need a crane and explosives to get Alex out of bed, but he liked his camp job so much he got up on his own for the first time ever.
To his surprise, Alex found out his favorite camp session was the one for the youngest, preschool kids. He experienced the firing of a peer who got caught breaking the rules. He learned how to interact with parents who were worried about their children not making friends. And he sat through daily meetings before and after his official "work day."
This year Alex has submitted his application to be a paid counselor, since he will be old enough to be on the payroll. We don't know yet if he'll get hired, but we've reminded him that many people don't get the first job they apply for. And of course we have our fingers crossed.
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