Getting Your First Job, Part 2

Getting your first job is not easy without help. If you are still in school, you need to be 14 in order to get working papers and you have to have a job offer before you can get the working papers. There are limitations on the type of job you can get because of health and safety reasons and on the number of hours that you can work. Parents may add some additional restrictions on the job search.

When I worked in a middle school with 7th and 8th grade students, almost every student that got a job knew someone that helped them find that job. There isn’t a formal listing of jobs for middle school and high school students, but schools do support the concept of students working during their senior year if they have completed all of there required classes and the school has a program to allow students to leave school during the day to work, Once again, there is very little in the way of formal listings and either the student, the school or the parents need to search for openings. Students can also try to find and after school or summer job.

I am currently volunteering my time to help special needs students find job opportunities, but the process is pretty much the same for all students that want a job. First time job seekers may have a long term career in mind, but they lack the educational requirements, work experience and probably independent transportation means to be successful in their search. Most have not completed an employment application, have no experience to include, have never had an employment interview, don’t know what minimum wage is currently and many have not learned to use cursive writing to sign the application. Fortunately, the students that I am working with have been through a program to address each of these issues.

The students that I am working with also are in a program that will pay for 100 hours of work and are covered by the agency’s insurance. They will also receive assistance with their orientation and support during their time with the company that allows them to work at their site. I will be contacting different local companies and I have already contacted two large companies that require corporate approval. What I could really use is a network of locals that could give me some leads on possible work / training sites. If you have any leads, e-mail me at or call me at 856 287 8422.

Getting Your First Job

I did a lot of different jobs before I was 15 at my house for a small allowance. I also cut grass and did odd jobs in the neighborhood to make money. My grandfather was building a house when I was about 10 and my father and my uncles all were involved. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to help, it was just expected. Mostly, I was a “gofer”: “Frankie, get us some more nails; bring the studs over here; clean up this area; tell your grandmother to get lunch ready and et cetera”. I was expected to watch how things were being done and expected to do more whenever I was asked to help.

I got my first paycheck job was when I was 15. I spent the summer working for my uncle Donald working on stainless steel tanks. They were all different sizes and I was basically a helper doing whatever I was told to do. I was also living with him and my aunt Shirley because I wasn’t old enough to drive to the job site and I was also his helper while he was building his house. I didn’t apply for these jobs. My mother and my uncle talked about it and it was a done deal. I didn’t go to a training program, but I learned construction skills as most apprentices had learned in the past by working with others that had the skills.

I continued working for my uncle during the summers and learned a lot of manufacturing and plumbing skills. I also worked in a restaurant during the school year where my mother worked as a waitress and my cousin got me a job at Cherry Hill Hospital working in the kitchen and serving food to the patients. The summer before I went to college, my dad got me into the Laborer’s Union # 172. The reason I am mentioning all of this is because of the pattern. My family made sure I knew how to work and helped me find jobs. As a freshman in college, I was able to get a good paying job in the plumbing department at the school because I had real plumbing skills that I learned from my family members. I was mentored in the process of working independently and specifically shown what the proper procedure was that I should be using.

Things have changed a lot since I was a boy and students find it much more difficult to get a job when their parents don’t own a company, can’t get their children into the company they work for or because regulations make it almost impossible to allow students to work. Vocational / technical programs provide the opportunities to learn marketable skills and realistic expectations for a work site. Companies have allowed parents to bring their children to work and most schools encourage participation, but parents can do more. I believe that parents should actively talk about the jobs that they and other family members have. I believe it is important that they hear the good and the bad points of a job. What does a boss expect on a job. What causes someone to get promoted and what causes a person to get fired. They also need to hear that workers will not always like everything about the job that they have, but sometimes they need to do a good job when they don’t like it so they can be considered for something that they will like a lot more later on.

Students need to do their own research about their dream job. They also need to be realistic about the requirements necessary to acquire that job and honest about how competitive they are as a candidate. They need to look for entry level jobs and experiences that create a positive work history. It is still true that it is difficult to get the job you want without experience. However, how do you get experience if no one will hire you? Internships and volunteer experiences are also a possibility.

Vocational Technical Programs

Whether you like or dislike our president. Whether you believe or don’t believe him. He mentioned that he wanted to bring vocational / technical programs back to our public schools. Based on Facebook post I have seen, this is a popular idea. As a father, I encouraged my youngest son to pursue a career as an union electrician. He could have pursued a college education, but I saw someone that had excellent mechanical aptitude and excellent eye hand coordination. As a guidance counselor and a businessman, I saw the financial advantages in a skilled career. Although many others disagreed with my suggestion, and although he could have gone to college, he graduated from high school and was able to go through a five year apprentice program and become a successful union electrician.

He didn’t apply to a vocational technical school, but there were still some classes at his high school that he took and he was able to work with me on a rental house that I was remodeling. My oldest son, who went to High Point University on an academic scholarship, also enjoyed the vocational technical classes that were available in his high school. Having these skills have helped them as home owners. Because I have worked on houses since I was a boy with my grandfather, father and uncles I have always been able to do my own remodeling on my rentals and my homes. My wife often tells me how great it is to have a husband that can fix things.

If you look at most high schools today, you will see an academic model that is preparing all students to go to college / university and they publicize the number of student that go to prestigious universities and the value of the scholarships that their graduates received. What you don’t hear is the success of the students that were in special education programs and how successful they have been in finding competitive employment. You will hear about how successful the school was in terms of those students on state tests and areas that need improvement based on those tests. I think we are finally at the point where vocational technical programs can once again be a major asset in our schools. The ability to focus on life skills (cooking, nutrition, budgeting, building good credit and financial planning) may have finally reached an awareness level that will allow those programs to return to our schools.

This is not a done deal and will require a significant push from citizens to push these ideas with politicians and appointed educational leaders. Many of these politicians and educational leaders only have an experience of academic success and professional goals. They also have to pay to have someone fix something at their house, on their car or with their technology. Then they often complain about the cost. Let’s talk to anyone that will listen and advocate vocational, technical and life skills for our schools. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Salem County Events

Working with South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., the Office on Aging and Disabilities provides the following legal talks. This is a series of presentations providing education and discussion about various legal issues.  Prior registration is encouraged but not required.
To register or obtain more information, contact the Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities at 856-339-8622.

Topic:   Bankruptcy on Friday, February 14 from 10am-12pm
Location:  Kent Avenue Apartments, 11 Kent Avenue Pennsville, NJ

Topic:   Reverse Mortgages on Monday, February 24 from 10 am-12pm
Location: Mid-Atlantic States Career & Education Ctr. 391 S. Broadway, Pennsville

“Move Yourself!” this February at our indoor exercise activity.

The exercises will take place at 10:30 am every Tuesday and Thursday at the Mid-Atlantic States Training Center (formerly known as Queen of Apostles), 391 South Broadway, Pennsville. Exercises feature information on various health topics.

Transportation will be available through the Scoot buses operated through County Office of Aging and Disabilities. For Scoot transportation information and reservations, call (856) 339-8644. Reservations require 48 hours advance notice.

A special topic is presented during each exercise:

  • Tuesday February 4th— Types of Cancer
  • Thursday February 6th— Cancer (Signs & Symptoms)
  • Tuesday February 11th— National Wear Red Day
  • Thursday February 13th— Heart Disease
  • Tuesday February 18th— Benefits of Owning a Pet
  • Thursday February 20th— How to Stay Healthy Around Pets
  • Tuesday February 25th— Tips for Living With Low Vision
  • Thursday February 27th— Common Eye Myths

Free Box Lunch is available for registered participants 60+ who reside in Salem County On February 6 & February 20 Call 339-8622 to register.

Below is the list of dates for indoor exercise classes at Mid-Atlantic States Training Center, 391 South Broadway in Pennsville. All classes begin at 10:30 am.

  • Thursday, February 4th – Core Fitness & Indoor Walk
  • Tuesday, February 6th – Balance and Posture
  • Thursday, February 11th – High Intensity Interval Training
  • Tuesday, February 13th – Tai Chi & Stretch
  • Thursday, February 18th – Strength (optional 2-5 |b hand weights)
  • Tuesday, February 20th – Chair Yoga (optional yoga mat)
  • Thursday, February 25th – Core Strength & Fitness
  • Tuesday, February 27th – Stretch

In the event of severe weather please contact 856-339-8622.

Jobs and Job Shadow Day

Ground Hog Day has passed and three events have brought me back to a program that I ran for 16 years at Monongahela Middle School (MMS): Job Shadow Day. One was a Facebook post that I made that discussed the more than 150 8th grade students that shadowed employers, an additional 30 plus students that went to work with their parents, and the positive reports by employers, staff members, parents and the students that participated. The second event was a great commercial that featured Bill Murray, the ground hog and great looking Jeeps. The third was my volunteer work with students at Resources for Independent Living.

The commercial was funny, but it reminded me about how difficult it can be to get things right and the feelings that a person can have when they are trying to find a job. They try everything that they know, they try to get help from anyone that will help them, but they wake up the next day and they are no closer than the day before.

The Job Shadow Day program at MMS started with presentations to all 8th grade students as part of our career development program in the guidance department. We used NJCAN (a free career site that includes an interest inventory, research tools to search specific careers, high school and college courses that you need to prepare for that job, on line opportunities to search for jobs and a lot of discussions about their decisions and choices. I worked with employers throughout Gloucester county and established specific jobs available for our students to shadow. Students then had to complete an application and apply for their top three choices.

I stressed the importance of a clean appearance, explained that they had to list their grade averages for all of 7th grade and current grades, their attendance record for the same time frames and a statement about why they wanted to participate and why they chose specific jobs. Next, I interviewed every student and discussed their application, job choices and their long range plans. With more than 25 years in Human Resources, I was able to do a thorough interview.

As I “filled jobs”, I posted the names of the students selected for each job and the jobs that were still available. I made it clear that I was going to find a way to have everyone participate, but like the real world, it is a competitive process and we need a plan B or C. Some students did give up initially because they didn’t get what they wanted, but the draw of getting out of school for the day did draw almost every student back into the experience. Students were responsible for reporting back on their experience and I met again with each student to discuss that experience and their plans for high school and beyond.

It was the first time that some of these students realized that they didn’t get to just choose what they wanted and that they needed to re-evaluate what they have been doing. They also needed to decide what they were going to do next. During the next several months, these students applied to STEM programs, Academy programs, Vocational programs and private schools. The process proved to be very competitive, and again, there were disappointments when they weren’t selected for what they wanted. There was also elation when their plans worked out very well. I spent time with all of the students to discuss this latest round of experiences and we discussed the next round of choices that the need to make.

Now, I am volunteering at Resources for Independent Living and have a much smaller group of students that I can work with. They have been through the education process and are trying to get a High School Equivalency and find a job. There are programs and individuals in your location that are doing the same thing. If you can create or identify a job that would benefit these non traditional students, try to make a connection in your community. The Director of the Federal Reserve reported that we are basically at full employment and that there are still jobs that are available, Please help identify these jobs because there are workers out there that need a start.

My Volunteerism

As a retiree I am fortunate to have the time to be a volunteer for The Office for the Disabled Advisory Board. My term as Chairperson has ended and Ray Leight has now been elected. Ray and I volunteer on Tuesday mornings with Mid Atlantic States Career and Training Center’s food bank and have a lot of conversations about its potential to provide a restaurant style service similar to Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen in Red Bank. We are only volunteers, not on their board, so we can only try to influence this. Ideas are easy, developing the concept and raising the funds and resources is more difficult. If this is an idea that can be developed, it will expand career opportunities.

I am on the board of Resources for Independent Living and I want to expand my volunteering with them to expand career opportunities for their clients. I am meeting with Jamie Cole, supervisor of programs today to determine how I can use my experience and skills to assist them. I think it is important for volunteers to realize that we need to fit into their programs and look for opportunities to add value. As I was working on my certifications to become a special education teacher and a school guidance counselor, I was in a supervised learning experience that had specific goals and experiences that I was expected to learn and staff members volunteered to help me develop those skills. It is great to pay it forward.

Looking forward, I am trying to become a volunteer with the Salem County Special Services School District. I have the certifications and experience to be of value, but once again, I need to find a way to discuss opportunities that allow me to fit in and add value. I have a strong interest in improving career opportunities for students and individuals that have a “disability” by focusing on abilities. I am looking forward to learning from those that I meet and have them learn from me.

If anyone has any thoughts on improving opportunities that lead to competitive employment, please feel free to make suggestions. If you are in a position to volunteer and add value in expanding employment opportunities and helping others develop their career capabilities, please give it a go.