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School leavers are going to need these job search tips

By Jana Angeles

If you’re finishing high school this year and interested in getting work, it’s important that you start preparing early so you can put your best foot forward and showcase that you’re the best candidate for the job. 

Whether you’re looking to break into the retail, hospitality or business administration industry, there are some things you’ll need to consider before you decide to submit that resume and cover letter you created back in Year 10.

Even though you’ll be on the hunt for roles that require little to no prior experience, reflecting on your soft skills and what you’ve achieved at school can help you secure a role in the real world

You may be in the midst of moving out of your parents’ house because you’re wanting independence, or you recently got your driver's license and need your own car to get around places. Either way, these wants all require money so it may be best to look for work now to reach your desired financial goals.

While it’s tough to juggle both your high school studies and personal life, working at a young age gives you the advantage of experiencing various learning opportunities and you can absorb training easily with your mindset. 

Your resume and cover letter need a glow up

Having a well-written resume and cover letter are all you need to get the interest of potential employers to secure an interview with you. While you may not have worked previously, it’s important to look back at any other activities or experiences that may highlight important skills beneficial to the workforce.

If you’re not too sure how you can beef up your resume, these are the things that can add more flair to your job application:
  • Volunteer experience: if you’ve joined a society or volunteered at a retirement village or primary school, this can be vital to have on your resume.
  • Awards: you may be a competitive athlete or have gotten outstanding grades for a particular subject. Highlighting these achievements will be helpful in your application.
  • List existing skills: your resume is a good opportunity to highlight any useful skills you may have. Make sure you think about your existing knowledge of computers as well as any transferable skills you can think of that you’ve gained from a particular extra-curricular activity.
As for the cover letter, just remember that it’s more detailed and summarises your resume in a page. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing up your cover letter:
  • Show the employer your best qualities: outline why they should hire you and use examples of your work that reflect your best qualities.
  • Highlight your achievements: did you win a leadership or community services award? In your cover letter, explain how you worked towards getting that specific achievement. What type of work did you do? What did it teach you about the value of hard work? Answer those questions in detail when doing that write up.
  • Do some research on the company and see where you fit: when you’re outlining your skills and experience in your cover letter, do mention the reasons why you’d be a great fit for the company. How do you relate to their values? Provide examples on how your skills and experience can make a positive contribution.

Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer

young teenage girl smiling for photo, wearing t-shirt with recycling symbol

Volunteering is a great opportunity for you to experience working with different individuals in a team. Although you’ll be doing unpaid work, there are non-monetary benefits that come with volunteer work including:
  • Personal satisfaction: volunteer work usually involves giving back to the community or helping those that are less fortunate than ourselves. If you naturally love helping people, then volunteering is the perfect opportunity for you to experience rewarding work.
  • Grow your professional network: working in a volunteering capacity allows you to connect with other people - some who are more senior than you. You’ll be able to learn from other professionals and develop skills and knowledge that may be useful for when you’re pursuing paid work opportunities.
  • It may lead to a paid position: to get experience in your desired field, starting in a volunteer role can help you work towards getting a paid position. You’ll receive training and may have other learning opportunities available.

Perfect your interview skills

It can be a nerve-wracking experience to prepare for a face-to-face interview but when you go through a couple, the process does become easier the more you practise. It helps to investigate what the common interview questions are and have answers prepared. Remembering your answers word-for-word may be difficult, so addressing the main points can help you speak effectively about your skills and experience

It’s important that you dress to impress and have the confidence to ask questions about the role. Discuss with your potential employer what the set expectations are and the minimum hours you’re expected to work every week. Besides, if you’re in your last year of high school, the main priority is to get through your studies successfully, so time management is key in this case. 

A VET course can improve your job search

teenagers studying on couch

You may have considered other options of study besides university and want to build your credentials early on as soon as you complete your high school studies. Did you know that Upskilled offers a range of courses in business, community services and IT? Generally courses can be completed within 12 months and your studies can be done online, meaning you can fit in your other commitments. 

If you’re looking for a flexible and practical way of learning, a VET course may suit you better than a university degree. Even if you’re halfway through your course, you can still add this to your resume and impress potential employers that you’re working towards a related qualification. 

Timing is everything

It’s typical that high schoolers tend to work jobs in the retail or hospitality industry because of the wide opportunities available for young people. Unfortunately, the retail industry has been hit with a decline in sales during Christmas time, meaning there’s less jobs available and competition is fierce. 

Timing is everything when it comes to your job search so if you’re looking for work, particularly in the retail sector, you need to start applying for jobs as early as August. Even then, it’s important to start submitting job applications as soon as possible, since it can give you the advantage of securing a role before finishing your HSC studies.

It also means you can get a headstart in training and start saving funds to meet your financial goals - whether that means to travel around the world or moving out of home. The best strategy you can ever implement is to start looking for work when competition is low, so have the urgency to look for work now rather than later.

The real world awaits you

In a blink of an eye, you’ll be finishing high school in no time. With mixed emotions of excitement and sadness, finding work is a rite of passage all young people go through in life. While the real world seems “scary”, you’ll appreciate the personal growth you get to experience when you find a job. 

The satisfaction of being able to earn your own money without having to rely on your parents is the first step towards independence, so don’t lose hope if your job search isn’t going too well. 

By following the tips above, you can improve your experience when looking for work. Just remember it takes a lot of time and patience to secure a role, so adapting a positive attitude can make all the difference.
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