by Brian Tibbs and the Youth Services team at DuPage County Workforce Development
You found a job you want to go for, and that’s great news. But, finding the job was just the first step. Now you have to apply for it!
Here are some things you should know before you apply for your first job, or any job, whether it’s with an application or with a resume.
Filling Out Job Applications
Many employers will ask you to complete a paper application or an online application to start the process of getting a job. Either way, the questions asked of you will be the same or very similar
Make sure you follow directions carefully and answer all questions! If you have never worked before, you can put “N/A” (Not Applicable) for the sections about previous employment.
Be prepared to provide:
- Your address
- Your contact information (phone, email)
- Information about any previous jobs you’ve had (name of the company, address, your job title, what you did there, why you left)
- The name of the position you are currently applying for
- What days and hours you are available to work
- How soon you could start working
FYI, there are a few things employers should not ask for on a job application:
- Your Social Security number,
- If you have a felony,
- Your race, or
- Your marital status.
If an application does ask for your Social Security number, talk to a parent or guardian about whether or not you should provide that information.
Lastly, if you’re filling out a paper application, make sure your handwriting is neat and easy to read!
Creating Your First Resume
Some positions may ask for a resume in addition to or instead of a job application. If you’re not sure how to get started making your resume, here are some general guidelines:
- Make sure you use a standard font and size (e.g. Arial or Times New Roman, size 11 or 12), and don’t use any color, fancy formatting or decorations.
- Start with your name, home address, phone number, and email address. This is typically centered at the top of the page and written out line-by-line like addressing an envelope.
- If you put your cell phone number on your resume, make sure your voicemail message is professional. You don’t want the employer to call you, reach your voicemail, and receive a silly sounding, profane, or otherwise inappropriate message. (This is good advice for any time you’re looking for a job!)
- Make sure your email address is professional as well. It should include some form of your first and last name. If you have an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, start another free account for job searching purposes, and use your name, like email@example.com.
- Make a header that reads “Objective” and then beneath that, write out the kind of job you’re looking for, and whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time employment. Also mention if there’s a specific industry or occupation you want to get into, and if you’re a recent graduate or entry level. Here’s are some examples:
- Dedicated and motivated high school graduate seeking entry level assistant position at Apple, Inc.
- Hard working high school graduate with leadership and organizational skills seeking to apply my abilities to the position of Office Assistant at MintyFreshRecord.
- Seeking a CNA position at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital to utilize my strengths and skills as a competent, caring, responsible healthcare worker.
- Next, make a header titled “Education” and put down your school name and the City and State it’s located in, the year you graduated, your GPA (if it’s a 3.0 or higher), any classwork you’ve taken that is related to the position or company you are applying for, and any honors you’ve received. Only list education if you actually graduated from school.
- If you have worked previously, include a “Work Experience” header, and then list each job you’ve held including this information: Job Title, Company Name, Company Location, Dates Worked, followed by three or four bullet points explaining your job duties.
- You may also want to include a “Skills and Qualifications” section where you can have three to five bullet points explaining specific skills, certifications, or other things related to the job. For example, you may want to include things like computer skills you possess, a CPR certification, that you’re bilingual, etc.
- Next, include an “Extracurricular Activities” section where you list any groups, teams or clubs you’re involved with at school, any volunteering you’ve done, any organizations or church groups you’re involved with, special projects you’ve been part of, etc.
- Check, then double- and triple-check your spelling and grammar. This is important, because employers take typos very seriously! And, you need to actually proofread your resume, because computer spellcheck can miss things.
- You should aim to keep your resume to one page. If it’s going onto two pages, try to see if there is a way you can alter margins or spacing to condense it down to one page.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a parent, teacher or counselor to review your resume and help you with proofreading.
To see what your resume might look like when it’s done, be sure to download our sample resumes.
Additionally, there are several free online resume builders that can help you get your resume started. We like the resume builder offered by College of DuPage because it’s very easy to use and it helps identify appropriate job titles and duties for your Work Experience section.
Plus, when you’re done you can download your resume as a Word document, so you can add more information if you need to, for example, adding your Objective Statement to the top.
Lastly, be sure to update your resume as often as needed, to make sure its current and accurate. And, when you land that first job, keep track of your accomplishments and new skills that you acquire – this is important information to add to your resume!
A reference is someone who can tell an employer that you will be a good worker, that you’re trustworthy, etc. Not all jobs will ask for references, but it’s best to be prepared just in case the employer asks for them:
- References should not be friends or classmates!
- Choose a relative, teacher, previous work supervisor, coach, preacher or pastor, etc., and be able to give the employers their name, their contact info, and how you know them.
- Make sure you ask people ahead of time if you can use them as a reference, so they know that they might get a call from an employer asking about you.
- Only give your references to the employer if they request it.
References should not be listed on your resume, but on a separate sheet that you can give the employer if they ask for them.
Make a Good First Impression
We know that’s a lot of information. But, job applications and resumes are often the first contact you have with an employer. It might be the first impression you make on them. And, first impressions are very important!
That’s why you need to take the time to make a good resume, and to completely fill out a job application when you apply to your first job. Those are important steps toward getting a job interview!
Note: this article is the second in a series of articles aimed at helping young people start and manage their careers. The first article was about Finding Your First Job.
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