Ask LH: How Do I Get Started In The Workforce?

Ask LH: How Do I Get Started In The Workforce?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve just turned old enough to get my first job, but am finding it hard to secure a place to work. What places would you say are good for teenagers to start working at? Are there certain times of the year where getting a job is easier than other times of the year? Thanks, Dale.

Dear Dale,

Are you looking for a full-time job or just something casual for after school hours? If it’s the latter, hospitality is probably your best bet. Hell, stepping through Ronald’s golden arches (or Colonel Sander’s breeches) is practically a rite of passage in this country.

At this stage in your life, prior work experience and character references aren’t going to be hugely important. The chief things an employer will want to know is whether you are reliable, can work flexible hours and are capable of thinking on your feet and getting along well with others. If you can travel to and from work without relying on friends/parents, that will also put you in good stead.

It also pays to show some initiative. The editor of UFC magazine, James Cooney, explained to us how he got his foot in the door by using a bit of his own gumption:

I wasn’t getting anywhere by sending my CV to everyone and replying to job ads, so I decided to up the ante. I went down to my local newsagent with a pen and paper and wrote down the email address of almost every magazine editor and publisher I could find and then went home and emailed them all saying that I’ll work for free. A magazine at ACP decided to take me up on it, and after a while started paying me. Seven years later, I’m running a mag of my own. If they don’t let you in the front door, you’ve gotta try and climb in a window.

As with anything else in life, perseverance is key. It’s absolutely imperative not to give up at the first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth hurdle. Getting constant knockbacks can be exhausting — especially when you’re just starting out in the workforce — but eventually the odds will stack in your favour. (Once you’ve snagged a job, you might want to check out these tips to ensure you actually keep it.) Happy hunting!


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  • Christmas and end of financial year are great times to get casual jobs as there’s usually high demand in the retail sectors.

    Having said that, if you’re 14 or 15 and just want a job, apply everywhere and ask around.

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