How Can I Get Work Experience? Volunteer and Paid Jobs for Teens
Whether you’re a junior or senior in high school or a new graduate making decisions about your future, it’s important to get some real work experience. A volunteer or paid job can help you “try out” a career field or job setting to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Especially in a tight job market, be willing to work as a volunteer. Many community and nonprofit organizations, social service agencies, libraries and schools depend on volunteer help and will be glad to talk with you. If possible, volunteer in a field you find interesting. If you’re interested in health care, for example, volunteer at a hospital, clinic or rehab center. If you like working with children, volunteer as a camp counselor, daycare center assistant or children’s library helper. Fire departments, nursing homes, homeless shelters and community literacy programs are just a few of the many organizations that use volunteers to help extend their services.
All things being equal, it’s nice to get paid for your work. You may also want to combine volunteering with paid work so you can save money for college or job training. Seek out job opportunities in retail stores, restaurants, local newspapers, community centers, travel agencies and utility companies, to name a few good possibilities. If you answer an employment ad and submit your resume or inquiry letter electronically, be sure to follow up with a phone call in a few days, asking for an interview. Many people are looking for work—companies may get a hundred or more resumes. Following up your application will establish you as an individual and show a potential employer how interested you are in the position.
A paid job is an opportunity to learn what it’s like to follow a supervisor’s instructions, ask for help or more information if you need it and get along with coworkers. You can also demonstrate and practice your work ethic by arriving on time, dressing appropriately, pacing yourself so you accomplish what your boss expects from you and behaving in a professional manner. Professional behavior means you accept criticism calmly, try to improve and always do your best. It means you’re pleasant and helpful with the public, if the job requires contact with customers or clients.
An ideal job, volunteer or paid:
- offers work in a field you’re interested in;
- allows you to use your strengths;
- allows you to try out accommodations you need to do the job successfully (such as a quiet place to work);
- provides a supportive, accepting work environment.