Teens need to stand out in summer job hunt

The summer job hunt is in full swing for many high school students looking to earn some extra cash.

In a crowded field of applicants, the teenagers who will stand out from the rest are well-prepared and behave professionally, said Kathy Smith, the job coach at Turlock High School in California.

Smith offered this advice for summer job seekers:

Q: When should high schoolers start searching for a summer job?

A: Spring. April to May are the best months because it takes preparation to get a job. There may also be a second interview, a background check, calling references or orientations that can take two to three weeks.

Q: Where should you look?

A: The No. 1 way is networking, though your parents or relatives or someone you know. In our area, we have mostly customer service jobs at places such as fast food restaurants, department stores, hardware stores or movie theaters. Rather than putting an application at every business, narrow it down to your skills. If your skill is customer service and food, then apply at restaurants or snack bars. If you are shy, you may decide to try to work behind the scenes.

Q: Once you've identified a few places to work, how should you apply?

A: Always fill out the application yourself. Don't let your mother fill it out for you. Bring your own black or blue pen so they know you are prepared. Most businesses will let you fill out an application on a clipboard. As times are changing, there are more and more businesses going online with kiosks.

Q: Now you've got that first job interview. How should you prepare?

A: Dress the part. Appearance is so important. Arriving 15 minutes early means you are on time. Five minutes early means you are late. Smile. It will relax you and leave a message with the interviewer. Don't take a cell phone onto the premises, and go to the interview alone.

Q: How should you answer questions in the interview?

A: Always be confident about yourself, and remember to make a story out of most things you say. This is the one time to brag about yourself. Remember STAR when you are telling a story: Situation, Task, Action, Results.

Here is an example: One time I was baby-sitting for my neighbor (situation), and the little girl wanted to ride her new scooter to the park (task). I taught her how to ride her scooter (action), and her mother was happy when she got home (results).

Telling a story shows that you have communication skills and it brags about you. It also shows that you know how to put things in order. You sound organized, put-together and confident.

Q: After you are hired, how should you conduct yourself on the job to make sure you stay employed all summer?

A: Respect. Manners will get you further in life than education and money. It can get you promoted within the company and get you the day off that you want. Respect your co-workers and supervisors because that tells them that you are a team player and trustworthy.

Q: If you want to quit your summer job when school starts, what's the best way to do it so you can use your boss as a reference in the future?

A: Have good communication with your supervisors and give a definite two-week notice. The notice should be both verbal and written. If you have good communication with your supervisors, they won't hesitate to be used as a reference.

Q: Any final advice?

A: No business owes it to you. You have to work to find a job. Our valley is dying for good, trustworthy, on-time workers. Also remember that $7.50 an hour at minimum wage is good money when you are 17 or 18 years old.