A reader writes:
I'm 16 and I have absolutely no job experience. I fear that along with my lack of experience, the economy being crap right now will entirely prevent me from getting a job. Am I truly hopeless? Another reason it may not be working out for me is that I started applying right after my birthday in May, right after other students had applied for their summer jobs. I'm going to start applying again a week or two before school starts again, when students will probably quit their summer jobs.
I go in the morning to turn in applications, which I've heard is when managers are still there in fast food stores. I dress nice and try to hand them in directly to the manager... but that doesn't seem to work at all.
I've been applying at various jobs in my city, ideal first jobs like fast food places, coffee joints... places that don't require a lot of experience. I haven't had one single call back from any place I've applied at. My friends and family tell me to call repeatedly... but I feel very odd doing that, and I'm sure it would be annoying.
I'm so sick of having to share a car with my mom (a result of having no money, of course)... I just don't know what to do. So my question is: What can I do to stand out to managers without being ostentatious and/or seeming like a stalker?
And another completely different question: Does having a GED really look horrible to employers? I'm getting one and starting at a local community college... it's not like I get bad grades, I just think high school's pointless.
Okay, I'm going to try not to gush, but I so want you to send me a resume when you're out of college. And I don't mean that in a condescending, cheek-pinching way; I mean it sincerely.
So. No one has any job experience at 16, because in most places you're not allowed to hold a paying job before 16. So you're not in any way behind the curve. And in a ton of ways, you're ahead of it. For instance, I'm pretty sure you're the only 16-year-old who's written to me, and probably the only one who's reading me or other career blogs. Which means you're picking up a ton of info and advice that your peers don't have, but even aside from that, it says something really important about who you are: You're someone who seeks out resources and knowledge, someone who's probably pretty resourceful, and I strongly suspect someone who's pretty smart. This may not be paying off in obvious ways for you right now, but oh let me tell you, it's going to pay off massively down the road.
You just need to survive your adolescence, and then it gets a lot better.
I don't think most employers care if you got a GED instead of doing it the traditional way, but they do care about what came after that -- meaning they do want to see a college degree, preferably from a four-year school. So think about transferring to a four-year college after you rack up some credits at your community college. It might be a pain in the ass, but it'll make things easier for you later.
Now, on to your main question. You're right that the economy is making it hard for everyone right now, and I like your idea about trying again toward the end of the summer, when there's likely to be some turnover in the types of jobs you're targeting. As for what's going to make you stand out to employers: Being professional, poised, personable, organized, reliable -- all those "soft skills" I talk about elsewhere on this site -- can move you to the top of the pack.
On the question of how much to call after applying, calling daily is too much. But it's fine to call a few days after turning in your application, and if you don't reach the manager herself, it's fine to call every few days until you do. (This runs counter to my advice for professional jobs, where that kind of thing comes across as too stalkerish, but in my experience, for some reason it's fine to do with retail, restaurants, etc. Different culture.)
You might also consider volunteering somewhere, even if it's just one afternoon a week, because it'll give you additional experience to put down on applications.
What other advice do people have?