Beating the summer jobs blues
May 23 2012
What it takes for high school students to find work in a competitive job market
The summer job season is fast approaching, and teens everywhere are updating their resumes, preparing for employment fairs and responding to want ads. But while many employers hire extra staff for the season, the search is often frustrating and fruitless for high school students. The summer unemployment rate for students is high—Statistics Canada reports that last year, it was 17.2%. As well, high schoolers have a tougher time finding work than college and university students: according to Statistics Canada, last summer, those age 15 to 16 experienced 30.7% unemployment, and for those aged 17 to 19, it was 16.4%, while for those age 20 to 24, the rate was a much lower 10.3%
Job search snags
Penny Golin knows first-hand how hard it can be to score summer work. Like many teens, the 15-year-old is looking for a job to gain experiences and skills that may serve her career goal—in her case, becoming a graphic designer. Of course, she also wants to save money for university, and for some current living expenses.
She has submitted many resumes to fashion retailers, day camps, an amusement park, a country club—but has received very few offers. “It’s disappointing, but at this age, it’s really hard, because you don’t have a lot of work experience,” says Golin, of Toronto.
That classic Catch-22—you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience until you get a job—is just one challenge job-hunting high school students face, says Kathy Dubeau, a guidance and co-operative education teacher at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. Others, she says, include not knowing where or how to look for jobs, and not having a current or effective resume.“They might miss out on a potential job because they had experience in the area, but forgot about it, so it wasn’t included on their resume,” Dubeau adds.
Summer employment edge
Getting ahead in the competitive summer job market ultimately means being well prepared. School- and career-planning service myBlueprint.ca has a new feature called Experiences and Resume Builder that makes it easy to document accomplishments and prepare resumes. Available for free to students at public and Catholic schools wherever myBlueprint.ca is offered—the service is subscribed to by 1,500 middle and high schools within 40 school boards across the country—the tool lets users record experiences, achievements and skills that may one day help them find work, such as class projects, school clubs, hobbies, volunteer gigs and part-time or casual jobs.
“There’s no need to try to figure it all out at the last minute—that’s when things get missed,” says Gil Silberstein, president of myBlueprint.ca. “With this tool, you can record every skill-developing experience or responsibility you have as you progress through middle and high school, and when you’re ready to look for work, you can just click a button to generate a resume.”
The user-friendly software lets students organize experiences into different categories to create an effective and professional-looking resume. Students applying for different types of jobs can create multiple customized resumes that include the most relevant experiences. At each step, tips are offered on how to optimize different sections of a resume. Users can also get help with creating a functional cover letter.
When completed, students can e-mail their resume to potential employers directly from the site, or download and save it as a PDF or Microsoft Word document to use later. “This is a very useful tool for students—they just need to collect the required information for the various fields,” Dubeau says. “This is especially helpful for students who have never created a resume before. It helps them to prepare professional documents.”
Maximize your summer job search
Kathy Dubeau, a guidance and co-operative education teacher at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., offers the following tips to high school students trying to find summer work:
1. Have a current resume ready at all times—make it well organized and professional looking with myBlueprint.ca (available at subscribing schools).
2. Know how to write an effective cover letter.
3. Use the “hidden job market”—personal networks and contacts—as many jobs aren’t publicly advertised.
4. Brush up on potential interview questions.
5. Have a suitable and well-fitting outfit ready for interviews.
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