The Elite Career Blog

The Seven Stages of Job Hunting: Finding Your First Job

Adriana Modersitzki
Adriana Modersitzki
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November 10, 2021
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5 minute read
It's inevitable that our careers will change, as we navigate different stages of life. 

 This is a series about the opportunities to take advantage of, the pitfalls to avoid and the changing priorities to consider when planning and managing your career.

Welcome to Part One, finding your first job.

Welcome to Part One, Finding your First Job

If you're a teenager getting ready to apply for your first job, you might be feeling a little worried about how to write a resume when you have no experience.  

You're in the right place. Let's work it out together because once you do find that first job, you'll be on your way to earning your own money, finding more independence, and making some new friends.

It can be tempting to start sending out resumes in every direction and hope that you'll eventually get a 'yes' from someone. I'd advise against this approach, though. Your first job is what leads to your second job, and onwards from there. So put some thought into what you're applying for, and pick a job where you'll be able to put your best foot forward. For example, if you have food allergies, perhaps a job in a café isn't for you. However, if you love talking to people and are a bit of a foodie, it could be a great match!

It can also be helpful to think a few years forward and see if you can line up your first job in a way that could benefit your future career goals. For example, if you're planning to finish school and start an apprenticeship, perhaps it would be a good move to reach out to some local tradies in the school holidays and see if they need a labourer. This will get you some real-life, hands-on exposure and potentially some great future connections.

But how do you get there?

Well, when we talk to people here at Elite, the challenges that usually come up include:  

  1. I don't know how to write a resume because I have no experience. What do I include?
  2. I don't have referees that an employer can check.
  3. I'm not sure what I'll be good at yet. How do I pick what to apply for….and what if the employer says no and doesn't hire me?

Let's break them down.

1. I don't know how to write a resume because I have no experience. What do I include?

Sitting down and staring at a blank page can be confronting, so I've written a blog on this specific situation in the past. There is a fantastic, free downloadable template waiting there for you.  

In short, you want to showcase your 'three w's'.

  • Who are you?
    You're a teenager seeking your first job. We've all been there, so simply say it! Don't think you need to mislead anyone into thinking you have more experience than you do. On this note, our article on nurturing your personal brand might be a good read!
  • Why do you want the job?
    Aside from the obvious – WHY do you want this specific job? This is particularly important if you're applying to a small business like a local takeaway, rather than a large chain like McDonald's, because they like to know that you've targeted them, specifically. That said, it's a great practice to get into early on. Hint, I have scattered answers to this question ALL throughout this blog.
  • What makes you different to any other applicant out there?
    What's your secret sauce? We all have something that we're good at. Do you have a head for numbers and doing quick sums? Perfect for getting a foot in the door at a sports canteen. Are you an incredible swimmer who has achieved their bronze medallion? Mention that if you apply for a lifeguard role. Showcase what you can bring to the table that sets you aside from other applicants.
Writing a resume for your first job
Who are you?                                                                                                Be honest, don't exaggerate your experience.
Why do you want the job?                                                                        Go beyond the obvious! This is an easy way to create connection with the reader.
What makes you different to any other applicant out there?           Get clear on what sets you apart from the other applicants

2. It's my first job, I don't have referees that an employer can check.

Volunteer work can be great for this, as can sporting coaches and teachers. If you have a person that you have reported to for something, whether it's a soccer game or a day at school, ask them! We all have to start somewhere, and if you're respectful and appreciative, people are often happy to help you with these things. Request a written reference (if possible, on a letterhead with their contact details) so that a potential employer can reach out to if they want to have a chat. As your career progresses, you will find that written references will lose relevance. However, I believe these are a great resource to have for a first job, especially if you're asking a teacher or coach who might not be readily available for phone calls.

Other referee etiquette to be mindful of includes advising the referee that you have applied for a job, and that they may expect a call. It doesn't have to be hard.
Try this: "Hi Mr Smith, thanks again for agreeing to be a referee for me. I just wanted to let you know that I interviewed for a job at Boost Juice yesterday, and they might reach out to you. Is that ok?"

I'm not sure what I'll be good at yet. How do I pick what to apply for for my first job….and what if the employer says no and doesn't hire me?

As I mentioned above, this is where getting familiar with your strengths, opportunities for improvement, and preferences is helpful. If you're walking down the street handing out resumes, think before you walk into each store. What would a day in the life look like, for this job? Do I think I'd be happy doing this? Would I have fun? Will it suit my needs and interests? Will I get enough shifts to meet my financial requirements?

Think before rushing into a choice, but also remember that your first job is a learning experience! That's what it's all about!

Regarding getting a 'no' from a potential employer, at some point, people are going to say no to you. But, the sky won't fall. I promise. It simply gives you the freedom to move on to your next possibility.

I wanted to share with you some journal prompts to help you get clarity around your goals and approach to finding your first job.

  1. People in my life often compliment my…………………….
  2. My hobbies are……….. and these could be reflected in jobs such as …………..
  3. When I get a casual job, I'd really like to learn …….. because in the future, I'll be able to use that skill when I …………

I've mentioned in this blog that getting clear on what you'd like to do in your future and your strengths and preferences can be incredibly helpful for decision-making. Journaling is an effective way to do this – at any stage of your career.

What do you need to journal effectively? For me, it's:

  1. Pen and paper.
  2. Binaural beats.
  3. A timer that's set for two minutes, and I write until it goes off.

Don't throw the towel in too quickly if it feels hard or you're not finding the flow. Journaling is a process, but it's such a worthwhile one.

How can we help you write a resume for your first job?

  1. Check out this blog we wrote about writing your first resume. There's a free resume template for teenagers there that might come in handy.
  2. If you'd like more hands-on assistance, you could enrol in our Resume in a Day course. This is a great option to get your hands on multiple resume templates, as well as lots of video content telling what to do in each section. It's a great option for families!

This blog is the first in a series about the opportunities to take advantage of, the pitfalls to avoid and the changing priorities to consider when planning and managing your career. I hope you enjoyed Part One: Finding Your First Job, and I truly hope that you found some great tips on how to write a resume when you have no experience!

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