Sometimes all you need to do is ask and your life can change for the better
My son, Joseph, did just that and was hired on the spot for his first job!
He began his job search in late spring with much prodding from me. With only one household income and child support payments ending in 2022, I knew he would need to have his own money to cover personal and college expenses.
I regaled — and cautioned — him of my crazy experiences as a job hunter and advised him on where to apply and how to complete his applications, but ultimately, he snagged his first job on his own.
Joseph will be writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he will describe his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent. This is his first column where he presents his perspective on joining the workforce for the first time:
Now that the smoke has begun clearing from the COVID-19 pandemic and while under the protection of both vaccines, I find myself embracing the duties and callings of a young adult. I, like most other people my age, had been robbed of this experience in 2020, but with the arrival of the summer of 2021, I saw fit to begin my search for work, the accomplishment of which is the focus of my summer as well as that of this column.
Initially, I felt that my search for employment would be a long and hard quest; I recalled the horror stories relayed to me by family and friends who had sought work for years without any luck. However, it took me only a few weeks to finally find my current job.
Unlike the job searches conducted by my mother when she was my age, many of the applications I filled out were done so virtually. I, of course, would have preferred a paper form, especially after my many months of virtual schooling, but I resigned myself to completing applications for jobs at businesses near where I lived. Each one asked for the same basic information: an email, a name, a phone number, an address.
As I write this for all youths who are also intending to find their first job, know that there should be no stress in filling out applications; as long as you know where you live and what your name is, you should be fine to start the process. Anything more in depth, however — which there could very well be — your parents are likely to know, so don’t sweat it.
In all honesty, I’ve found filling out applications to be quite boring. It’s pretty much just you talking about yourself, over and over again, until someone acknowledges you as useful.
I applied to at least a half-dozen positions, few of which responded with more than a phone call. Often, an application would yield nothing more than an email that, in effect, said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” It was a bit discouraging at first, I’ll admit. I was wondering if the stories I had heard were going to materialize for me, but I eventually received a phone call from a deli owner, asking me to come in for an interview.
This is where most people would be nervous; I was no different. However, I knew what was required of me. My school had prepared my classmates and me with mock interviews, which I immediately appreciated. I dressed well and was ready to shake hands and make eye contact with my future boss; I also made sure “sir” was an address I would use frequently.
In addition to these preparations, I suggest that you show that you are a team player. No one will hire someone who does not know how to work with others, so emphasize that you aren’t one. Finally, try to connect with your potential boss, crack a joke, talk about your hobbies and comment on theirs, and, of course, smile even if you are wearing a mask.
I felt ready for my interview when I arrived, but upon seeing my employer, I realized he was more nervous than I was. Likely, this will be true for you as well. Just as you don’t want to make a slipup and not get hired, they don’t want to drive a future employee away. Knowing this, I had a boost in confidence and never wavered for a second. I felt I had a successful interview and ended it with a “thank you” — just as you should, too. They do not need to give you their time, so be thankful that they have.
I left with a job offer, but I soon realized that the work schedule was ungodly in its demands. The owners expected me to work 12-hour shifts on both weekend days, not to mention several of those hours I was expected to work alone. I did not realize the ridiculousness of such conditions until I spoke with my mother about it. After only a short conversation with her, I knew this interview meant nothing. I had to keep looking.
Needless to say, I felt frustrated. I was beginning to realize that virtual applications were for the birds, and that going in person to an establishment would likely yield better results. I decided to scope out a few nearby businesses that I knew were in need of workers. After school one day, I entered a fast-food restaurant and asked for a paper application.
It was exactly the same as the virtual ones I had completed. Minutes after I handed in my application, I had an unexpected interview with my soon-to-be boss. This situation will not likely occur in all cases, but for any of you who enter a business looking for a paper application, prepare for this set of circumstances. Take the steps I recommended above, and you should do perfectly fine.
I left that interview also feeling comfortable with the outcome and was asked to come in again to learn more about the job and to fill out a virtual application, of course. After the second meeting and second application were completed, I had a uniform — shirt and baseball cap — and a set time to come in for my first day of work.
In that moment, I had become one of a great many people who were earning an income independent from money supplied by their family. I was finally producing something, and it felt good. At last, I had money that I could do with as I wished; this sort of freedom definitely distinguishes the children from the adults. To all of you who make it this far, know that to find a job and then keep at it are steps toward maturation.
As of the moment I am writing this column, I am still employed; if I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be giving anyone any sort of advice. I received my first paycheck for $60, after taxes, and I only had to work a single day to earn that amount. For a first job, that’s not bad money. I am satisfied with my work and have been learning from and connecting with the people who work alongside me. In conclusion, I wish you luck in finding your first job and welcome you in joining me and so many others as cogs in the great economic machine.
Think of it as school, but this time you are getting paid.
Joseph’s experience thus far reminds me of my first job at a Roy Rogers fast-food restaurant in Maryland. I worked there for about two years on the night shift. For $3.35 per hour, I worked the register, cleaned the dining area, prepared orders and provided customer service. The work was hard but consistent. After many long shifts, I walked home smelling of grease, commiseration and hope.
So many of my peers joined the workforce as teenagers through fast-food establishments. Now, they are music composers, teachers, graphic designers, artists and lawyers.
And now Joseph is following their footsteps.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Starting the summer of 2021, my son, Joseph, is writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he describes his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent.
Twice a month, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.