How to land a good first job

How can you convince a company to hire you when you don’t have any work experience?

Amy White |
Categories: Finding a job

Finding a summer job, or any first job, is a challenge. How can you convince a company to hire you when you don’t have any work experience? Should you settle for the first offer that comes along? Or should you wait for the perfect opportunity? Read on to find out how to land a great first job. In this post you’ll learn:

  • How non-work experience can help you during your job search

  • What your personal network is and why it matters

  • When taking a job that’s less than ideal is worth it 

Keep your expectations in check

Let’s be real. As a teen or young college student, you should know your first job won’t be glamorous. You won’t be shooting for fashion magazines in a Manhattan skyscraper. YouTube won’t hire you as their next intern. And you won’t be designing a video game. 

While those are awesome career goals, you’ll end up disappointed if you expect to land a sweet gig as your first job. 

That doesn’t mean your first job is going to suck. It can be awesome. You just need to know how to land a good first job.   

Don’t sell yourself short

Sure, you’ve never had a “real” job before. But, you’ve done some stuff. Where have you volunteered? Have you babysat for the neighbors or tutored your classmates? Did you sell candy bars to raise money for your school or team?

Any of those activities help improve your communication and time management skills. And guess what? Those are valuable traits to any “real” employer.  

Take it a step further. What awards have you won? Do you write for the high school newspaper? Are you great with social media?

Write down a list of everything you’ve ever done. Just because you didn’t get a paycheck for it doesn’t mean you weren’t providing a valuable service. 

Next, reach out to the working adults around you. Talk to your school guidance counselor, your parents and family friends. They can give you valuable insight into the reality of the workplace. Be prepared with a list of questions, like the ones below.

  • What was your first job?

  • What did you like about it?

  • What didn’t you enjoy?

  • How did you handle friendships at work?  

  • Who have you kept in touch with since that time? 

  • Why did they leave their first job?

You won’t just get valuable info. This practice will give you more confidence during your own interviews.

Be prepared

So you’ve made your list of accomplishments and interviewed a handful of working adults, now what? It’s time to prepare for your job hunt. Before you start, learn everything you can about the job search process. 

Snag has tons of job articles to help you out. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about teen jobs. We’ve got a whole section dedicated to it. 

We’ll let you in on the not-so-nice stuff, too. Sometimes, shady employers try to take advantage of inexperienced workers. Know your rights and protect yourself by learning about teen labor laws. 

If you’ve done your homework and landed the interview, congrats! You can get a quick feel for a company’s culture by visiting their website. To really impress your future employer, research the company. Have they recently launched a new product? Were they in the press? Do they have a new CEO? A well-informed candidate stands out during the interview process.

Spread the word

A lot of people get their jobs through people they know. In the business world, this is your “personal network”. Reach out to everyone you know (aka your personal network) and tell them you’re job hunting. Yes, even if you’re just looking for a summer job. 

This is another area where your parents, teachers and family friends can be a great resource. 

Mention what type of position you’d really love, but stay open to all opportunities. You don’t want to miss out on great work experience because it’s not on your vision board. 

Work for the experience

Sometimes jobs that aren’t ideal lead to great opportunities later on. A gig that’s not exactly what you want can put you in contact with people or organizations you’ll need in the future. Your first job expands your personal network. 

For example, working as a receptionist might not sound fun. But, it might allow you to shadow a power player like the company’s CTO (chief technology officer). While you might not be in your ideal position, you can learn from those around you who are. 

Also, don’t be too quick to turn down a volunteer position as your first job. Sometimes the experience is the best compensation. This is especially true when it’s an industry you’re passionate about. Like we mentioned before, volunteer experience is work experience. And employers love to see it on your resume.  

Consider your options

Don’t limit yourself to your dream job or the first offer that comes along. Be patient and persistent. 

Expand the possibilities based on your interests. Your first job doesn’t have to be in a restaurant or a retail store. Do you love working on your Honda? Try working at a car wash. Are you an animal lover? Work as a receptionist for the local veterinarian. Have you always looked forward to summer camp? Offer to be a counselor.  

If the job hunt is taking longer than expected, create your own opportunities. Just because no one has offered you a summer job yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one. Start a mobile auto-detailing service. Walk your neighbor’s dogs. You’ll impress future employers with your entrepreneurial spirit. 

When you think outside the box, your potential is limitless. 

Keep your eye on the prize

Don't give up if you don't land a job right away. A job search takes persistence and patience. Potential employers will take notice of your determination and drive.

With every application, interview and phone call, you’re improving your job-hunting skills. It’s never a waste of time. You’re gaining real-world experience. You’re out there meeting new contacts and honing your communication skills. 

Ready to take some action?

You’re in the right spot. Browse the entry-level jobs available on Snag right now. We’ve got a ton of job opportunities for you to explore. Whether you’re looking for a part-time job or a full-time gig, we’ve got you covered. We know you’ll make this summer job search a success!