How to (#1): 5 Steps to correctly applying for your first job

Whether you're looking to make some extra money, wanting to save up for college, or just seeking some real world experience, your first job can be a great opportunity to acquire new skills and test out different career paths. If done right, working a part-time job during high school or university can provide you with these benefits and help you develop your skillset for future jobs.

Step 1: Finding jobs near you

When seeking out your first job, try to make sure that it requires a minimal commute. Not only will this save you some time on transportation, but it also minimizes having to depend on other people to drive you there. Finding jobs in plazas near your school or home is definitely the way to go. You can try using online job search tools to find opportunities in your area, look for help wanted signs, or even go in to places you think you might want to work and ask them if they're hiring. Ideally, you shouldn't require an insane detour to get to your workplace.

If at all possible, try to also seek out jobs in fields that you think you might be interested in studying. For example, I was interested in becoming a pharmacist while in high school and was able to get a job stocking over-the-counter medication in a local pharmacy. Not only was this a great first-job, but it also allowed me to interact with pharmacists and ask them questions about their jobs.

Step 2: Create your resume

People often get step 1 and 2 backwards, but it's important to tailor your resume to the place you're applying to rather than hand out a ton of generic copies. When creating your resume, take advantage of templates available through Microsoft Word or Google Documents since they have a clean aesthetic and are relatively user-friendly. Your resume should include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your email and phone number
  • 2-3 sentences at the beginning about why you're interested in working there
  • What high school or university you attend and what year you're in
  • Relevant volunteer experience
  • A list of 2-5 skills you think are relevant for this role

When choosing a template for your resume, try your best to fit it on a single page. This will make it so that employers are more likely to read everything you have on it. Also, don't feel discouraged if you're resume is very minimal - nobody expects you to have a lot of experience at this point in your life, everybody has to start somewhere!

Step 3: Apply for the job!

After creating your resume, you're ready to apply for the job! If applying online, you should submit your resume as a PDF file. Even if you are applying online, I would still recommend that you go into the store in-person and give them a copy of your resume as well. This also gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself to the managers and staff, and makes it more likely that you'll be invited for an interview. Some workplaces may have an additional application form that you're required to fill out in the application process. These questions are usually straight forward, and target information that would be present in your resume. Sometimes, however, they might ask your expectations for wage. If this happens while applying for your first job, you should answer that you expect minimum wage or one commensurate with your coworkers. You can start negotiating when you get more work experience, but everybody has to start somewhere!

Step 4: Set expectations for hours

If you plan on having a job during the school year, I'd recommend that you talk to your employer about working a maximum of 15 hours. This is a number that has worked for me in the past, but I recommend that you experiment with yourself and take note of when it feels like you're working too much. Remember that even though you may be tempted to make extra money, you will have the rest of your life to work and it's more important to focus on your studies in the meantime. The summertime can be a good opportunity for full-time work when you're generally not preocupied with your classes. If the application asks for your desired hours, I recommend that you are upfront and honest so that expectations are clearly communicated with your future employer.

Step 5: You've applied, now what?

Congratulations, you've taken the first step towards securing your first job! Now what? Often times, you'll hear back about an interview within 1-2 weeks of submitting your application. In the meantime, sit tight and try to learn more about the company. This is especially useful if you do get invited for an interview, since most employers will ask questions to make sure you're aware of the company's mission and values. Though waiting for that interview can be nerve wracking, try your best not to inquire further until at least 2 weeks have passed since you applied. This can make you look too eager and decrease your chances of getting the job. If you do end up getting invited back for an interview, congratulations!! We'll be sure to make another blogpost on how to ace that.

Bonus tip: Take advantage of your network and co-op

I think that networking is a term that prompts a little bit of internal panic for everyone, myself included. However, you can start to think about networking as learning to leverage the opportunities around you. For example, if one of your friends knows the owners of a local business, have them put you two in touch to help you inquire about potential employment.

Similarly, a lot of high school and university programs have opportunities for co-op where you basically are able to count work experience as course credit. A lot of people are able to acquire their skillset during their co-op terms and then end up working for those companies later on. When it comes to searching for jobs, be resourceful and take advantage of the opportunities around you! We're well past the era of job searching in the local paper and handing out resumes.

We hope that this little guide will serve you well in your job hunt. You've got this!