By Shannon Phillips, Employment and Training Specialist at Cortland Works Career Center
At this time of year, I start to see a lot of youth, ages 14-16 especially, who are looking for employment. Let me start by saying there are very few jobs for this age group in Cortland. With an increase in adults taking part-time jobs and the restrictions placed by New York State on young workers, employers have few positions that they fill with minors. The good news, however, is that employers are far more likely to hire the youngest workers for summer jobs. If you would like to work this summer and possibly increase your chances of getting hired now, here are some steps you can take:
- Volunteer – Most of the students I speak to do not like the idea of working for free, but there are many advantages to volunteering. One is work experience. You can write your volunteer work in the previous employment section of a job application. It shows employers that you are industrious and I’m sure you know that teens have a reputation for being kind of lazy. Volunteering proves you have initiative. Another advantage is references. I cannot stress enough the importance of having adults who have no obligation to you say you are awesome. Employers don’t trust your mom or your cousin or even your favorite teacher to be objective about your abilities. They will trust a community member who has no motivation other than your excellent work ethic and attitude.
- Network – Networking means talking to other people who are employed and letting them know you are looking for work. Ask family, friends, and neighbors if the company they work for is hiring. Ask if they have work they would be willing to pay you for. Babysitting, yard work, and farm work are the most accessible jobs for teens. Doing odd jobs and doing them well not only puts money in your pocket but also expands the list of people who will be willing to serve as references for you.
- Pay Attention to your Public Image – Trust me when I say that employers have more ways than ever to check out who they are hiring. Cortland is a small town. It’s not unusual for hiring managers to know someone who knows you, to have an employee who is friends with you on Facebook, to have access to your Twitter feed, to have a child who goes to your school. The way you behave in public, your reputation, your online persona actually matter. I urge you not to post pictures of yourself drinking and playing beer pong, smoking a bowl or a bong, exposing your body in overtly sexual ways. I know you’ve heard this a million times. If you’ve never believed anyone before, believe me now that all of these activities will hurt your chances of getting a job no matter how tricky you think you are about hiding them.
Getting a job is a frustrating, arduous process. It’s so easy to become discouraged, but persistence is truly the key to success. You will grow weary of filling out applications, keep filling them out. You will get down on yourself because you’re not getting interviews, but you have to keep trying. Keep your eye on the Cortland Standard, speak to your guidance counselor, visit Cortland Works Career Center for information about our Summer Youth Employment and Training Program (recruitment begins in May). Above all, don’t give up.
For specific questions about employment as a youth, contact Shannon Phillips, Employment and Training Specialist at Cortland Works Career Center.