By Sangeetha Ram
Michelle is a 17-year-old high school student who enjoys painting, any form of creativity, and nurturing children. But last year, when she decided to search for a part-time job, Michelle found that it was no easy task; it required meticulous planning and a lot of time to scour the Internet for different positions.
Though Michelle put a lot of effort into searching for jobs, she always came out empty handed — and looking back on it she now realizes the reasons why. “I was always looking at jobs that had the benefits or street cred,” Michelle says. “I tended to gravitate towards makeup stores that gave out leftover samples, or cool shoe stores that had great employee discounts. I never really looked for jobs that I had the skills for.”
Being open minded and realistic is one of the most important things when searching for a job. While having a specific job in mind will make searching easier, keeping other options/industries open will really help you actually get a job that you are qualified for — and one that will act as a valuable stepping stone. “Youth need to look for jobs where they can gain valuable experience and knowledge when starting out,” says Jamal Brooks (pictured), a youth job specialist at the YMCA. “They tend to look at what stores can offer them rather than what skills they can bring to a store.”
In Michelle’s case, keeping her mind open to non-retails jobs was what led her to her first part time job as an art teacher’s assistant. As an art assistant, she improved her time management, communication, and creativity skills — which she can transfer to other industries in the future. When asked about strategies that helped her succeed in finding a job, she emphasized the importance of networking with people who work in jobs you would like to do. “The owner of the art school I work at is actually a regular at my aunt’s flower shop,” she says. “One day I was over at the flower store when I overheard them talking about an open position that sounded like a perfect fit for me. I talked to the owner, got an interview, and I got the job.”
If you are a student looking for a job, make sure to look for jobs that match the skills you have, and will give you the experiences that you need for future career endeavours. Always keep an open mind, network, attend job fairs, and call employers to see if they are hiring. And to connect with youth job specialists like Jamal, visit a YMCA Employment Centre near you.