Strong examples of work experience are part of a successful job interview. But what to do when you are just setting out to find your first job and you have little or no work experience? How do you show you are a capable worker when your last job was weeding the garden or taking out the trash? Here are ways to identify and present jobs skills that employers will want in an employee.
Identify what skills a job requires
Take some time and find out what this particular job takes. This means understanding what the industry or company does and what is expected from employees. You could also ask someone who knows about these types of jobs what to expect. See Information Interviews to see what types of questions to ask when researching a job.
George hears about a landscaping company that is hiring and thinks that might be a good summer job. George hasn’t worked for anyone besides his family, but he’s helped take care of the family garden. He remembered one of the councilors in his church’s youth program mentioned working as a landscaper in college and decided to call him. The councilor explained how long the hours were and the type of work was moving pipes for sprinklers and preparing flower beds. George added it up and he’d worked just as many hours clearing out old flower beds for his grandmother and helping his uncle put the sprinkler system in. He applied for the job. On the application he mentioned how he made sure once he started a job he always finished it, and for a reference he put his councilor. The employer liked George’s answers to his questions, and the Church councilor explained how George was a hard worker at service projects and a good example for younger boys. George got the job.
Identify what job skills you have
Think about work you’ve done at home, school, church, and around your community. To do them well you had to listen to directions, solve problems, and show responsibility. All of these are job skills.
Volunteering – This is work experience that shows you are motivated to help, and don’t think only about yourself. Work that is done with a group also demonstrates that you are a team player and you can interact well with people.
Church callings – Callings show you can work on a schedule and understand how to organize and plan according to your commitments. Having someone other than a family member as a reference helps, and church leaders you’ve worked with would be one source.
Awards – Merits from school and church (i.e. Young Womanhood Recognition award and Duty to God Award) show you can set goals and stick to them. If the interviewer asks, you can explain the goals and how you accomplished them to earn the award.
Chores – Employers want to know you are responsible, and showing tasks you do regularly gives them a view of your character. You don’t want to simply run down a list of your chores, rather you should list what you’ve learned or a skill that came from doing a job. Make sure to use your strongest example first.
Julia is 16 and wants to apply for a job with a cleaning service after school. She explains on her application that she has helped with a volunteer project to clean a neighbor’s house and has helped with the upkeep of her family home for years. She understands the effects of different cleaning products and what products to avoid on certain surfaces. She also had a reference from a woman she’s babysat for since she was 12, showing she is someone the family trusted since they continued to use her as a sitter.
School Projects/Clubs – School is a great way to show you can prioritize, multi-task, and follow instructions. Being in student clubs and organizations is another way to show you can work well with others and teachers can also be references. When listing current extracurricular activities be careful you aren’t, or will appear, too busy for a job.
Ask people for input – Ask family members and friends what they notice about you. Are you someone they depend on? Are you friendly and easy to get along with? Are you a good problem solver who finds solutions quickly? The people who know you best can point out qualities that would make you someone employers want to hire. Ask multiple people and see which characteristics come up the most. For other ways to recognize your talents and skills fill out the first section of the Career Workshop manual.
Present Your Skills Well
How you present your skills during a job interview is just as important as having the skills.
Keep it short – When the interviewer asks you about a work experience you have a few seconds to answer. Respect their time by sticking to the main point and having prepared answers for questions like “Why would knowing this help you in our work?”
Be polite and honest – Your people skills are being judged the second you enter the room. It is important to have a balance between confident and polite, and the best way to do this is to be honest. You never want to give the impression you’ve done something you really didn’t, or you already know something that you don’t. Having integrity is important not just as an employee but as a person.
Dress appropriately – For a job interview dress one grade above the clothes you would wear for your job. Make sure all clothing is clean, neat, and in good repair. One example is if you are applying for a construction job you wouldn’t want to wear a business suit; instead nice pants and a clean, ironed shirt would work. You don’t want to overdress or appear too casual.
Ask follow-up questions – Having researched the company, you should have a list of questions to ask. Avoid asking about salary or what your hours would be, and focus on what you can do for them. Questions about protocol and where they would want your help shows you’ve already given a lot of thought to this job.
The best way to identify job skills is to have been a good worker at home, school, church, and in the community. By being dedicated to doing the best job possible in everyday things you can show what a good employee you will be, and you will be contributing to bettering not only your life but the lives of those around you.