September 14, 2007


The murky ocean called the “job world” can be scary and foreboding. But, do not fear, it is navigable. There are many who have successfully gone before you that can show you the way. Books and guides abound, you can check one out from the library. But, I will offer a short tutorial here in the hopes that it will give you some encouragement.

The first step to successfully becoming an employed member of our society is deciding what you want to do. Bus driving. Childcare. CNA in a nursing home. Fast Food. Clerking at a Grocery Store or Department Store. Is clerking the right word? Waitressing or Hostessing. Landscaping. Painting. Being a teller at a Bank. Translating. Data Processing. Or any number of other jobs that don’t require a degree, but allow you to make some money. Get an application from the place, actually from several places. Using your best handwriting, fill them out honestly, but not humbly. That means that you should feel free to tell them about all of your small experiences. For example, you owned a parrot, so that makes you perfect for the zoo keeper job. In fact I was offered a job working with adult second language speakers simply because I had lived in another country.

After you send in an application, they may interview you on the spot or call you later to come in for an interview. If they don’t call you back, you may want to call them and ask if they have looked at your application yet. This may show some go-get-it-ness. If they do agree to an interview, get excited and get prepared.

Bring all of your information; social security number, driver’s license number, home addresses for the last ten years, date you can start working, position desired, salary desired, how you heard about the job, your education and training, work history, additional skills, and up to four references. It will be difficult, or at least unique, to list all of the places that you have lived for ten years, but they need this for police checks. The “desired salary” always threw me for a loop. I was always tempted to write thirty dollars an hour or some such thing, but knew they would think of me as too expensive. So then I would want to write minimum wage, but then maybe I was accepting too little. Problem solved when I learned that I could write “standard,” “negotiable,” or “competitive.” Education and training should include start and end dates, school names and addresses, any degrees and dates that you earned them, maybe even the grade point average, rank in your class, and so on. Work history should include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your previous employers, starting and ending dates, and reasons for leaving. This can be troublesome if you have lived overseas and never had a job. But that is a good excuse to segue into additional skills. Additional skills could include the things I mentioned above: zoo keeper skills, language skills, and so on. You can bring in an additional copy of your application, or a resume that covers these. You may or may not need these and the references. Dress nicely. Skirts or dress slacks are not always required, but they are still a good idea. Try to anticipate what level they will expect. If you are applying to be a bank teller, definitely wear a tie, but if you are applying at McDonalds, be presentable. Finally, during the interview be friendly, positive, and honest, but once again not humble. Don’t overestimate your skills, but don’t underestimate your skills.

Today I overheard an interview going on in Starbucks over cups of iced coffee. It was an interesting thing to listen in on. The interviewer, wearing kakis and a polo shirt, was describing the job to the interviewee, who was wearing dress pants and a tie (no not just a tie, also a dress shirt, shoes, and so on). It entailed something like driving around and selling something or other, data tracking, and something else. You can tell that I was not listening too closely. One thing we can learn from it is that your interview may take place anywhere, maybe even a coffee shop. The other is that it was entirely relaxed, not the uptight thing that I usually picture. And third, the interviewee dressed up more then the interviewer. From what I could tell this was ideal.

After your interview, they may or may not hire you. Do not be disappointed, learn from the experience. They probably didn’t hire you simply because you are a bumbling “traveler” (see dedication) adjusting to the United States, you probably just needed more experience or to tweak your interview persona. Everyone gets rejected sometimes. In fact some successful people got rejected over and over again, but they persevered. Here is where I should include an uplifting story. I do not have one, so go find one for yourself and encourage yourself with it.