GUEST POST – JENNIE WITHERS
3 Things I Learned While Writing Hey, Get a Job!
I wrote Hey, Get a Job! out of necessity. I was teaching a course titled Technical Reading and Writing to ninth graders and the course curriculum was very vague. My need for material was in the back of my mind as I talked one day with a friend who was the CEO of a small technology company. She complained about the lack of job getting and job keeping skills in applicants fresh out of college. It was then that I decided to add a job skills unit to my curriculum. After all, there was plenty of technical reading and writing involved with employment.
I began researching for my unit, and unbeknownst to me at the time, Hey, Get a Job! was conceived as well. During the process of researching and teaching teens about how to get and keep a job, I learned three things which drove me to write Hey, Get a Job!
1. I learned there are not many resources out there for teens seeking their first work experience. You can find tons of stuff on employment for college graduates, adults seeking career changes, and even senior citizens wishing to return to the workforce. But teens? Not so much.
What information for teens that is available is spread here and there. Some of the most valuable tidbits are kept inside the brains of the employers who hire teens. I know because I interviewed a bunch of them. It makes one wonder how we could have left out this group. Perhaps numbers two and three on my list will help explain.
2. I learned kids like to say they know everything, but in actuality, they don’t know anything. The first time I assigned students to fill out a job application I received grumbles and those often heard words, “This is stupid, I already know how to do this.” I did not teach the application, I didn’t even provide tips, hints, or don’ts. What I got was a mass of applications that were unacceptable. Teens didn’t know how to properly write their address (why would they, they email and text), education history became yes or no questions (YES, I want to attend college), strengths and skills prodded lists of things like the amount of weight one could bench press or the grade on an exam, and my personal favorite, the references they listed were their best friends. This was just the application. My students failed miserably at interviews and their knowledge was sorely lacking in regard to the things employers expect. Do teens know how to get and keep a job like they say they do? I think not.
3. I learned that adults often mistake a teen’s reluctance to get a job as laziness when it is actually that they are scared. All kids like money, and believe it or not, the vast majority of my students wanted to earn their own money. The problem for many of them, however, was that they were intimidated by the adult world of work. We treat them like kids, we feed them, cloth them, make them do a few chores around the house, and then it seems to them that one day we say, “It’s time to grow up, find a job opening, apply, interview, act mature enough not to get fired and manage the money you make.” It’s a change that many teens don’t believe they’re ready for and therefore resist.
My hope with Hey, Get a Job! is that it gives kids the comprehensive information they need to have the confidence to make a smooth transition from kids to young adults. In our society, one of the most important rites of passage from child to adult is the first job. How can we expect teens to successfully navigate growing up if we don’t provide the necessary tools? Hey, Get a Job! is, in my unbiased opinion, a great tool for teens and their parents.