Becoming a resource for teen job-seekers

I often joke to friends and co-workers that if I didn’t fall in love with libraries, I would probably have gone on to be a career counselor. I love editing resumes and cover letters, helping with interview preparedness, finding jobs and career opportunities for others, sharing in the excitement of finally choosing a career path. I think part of this passion comes because I truly love what I do and I want everyone to feel the same way.

That’s why I’m so glad that libraries have become a major career center for communities. I’m sure they always have been, but especially now that almost all job applications require the use of a computer, to which many in our community don’t have access, the need for career resources and assistance at the library is immense. Many adults come to our branch seeking my assistance with resume formatting and with navigating a webpage to submit a job application.

However, what I don’t often see is teenagers and young adults asking for job help. These people know how to use a computer, and may have had some experience in the past writing a resume. As a result, they don’t think the library has much to offer them as they continue their job search. The question becomes how to reach those people, to make our resources available and to assist them in becoming better candidates.

I have been fortunate develop a partnership with the parent-teacher organization at the local high school, which is doing so much to help young people prepare for life after high school. The PTSO had heard about my Adult 101 program and asked me to bring a similar session to the high school in advance of their first-ever high school graduate job and career fair. So, two weeks ago I visited the high school and gave a half-hour workshop to the students on resume-writing, interview tips, and generally how to be successful at a job fair.

In my workshop, I tried to teach the students that it’s not about where you worked, but what you took away from it, telling them that you may learn just as much working as a fast-food cashier or retail worker as you might as a government intern or in some other, more prestigious-sounding job. It’s all about keeping your mind open and being cognizant of the skills you may be developing without even realizing it.

Today was the day of the job fair. I was very impressed with what the PTSO was able to put together, pulling in a wide variety of employers, many of which will hire students straight out of high school and may even make job offers or interview requests today. I was on hand this morning to give last-minute resume advice and will be returning later this afternoon to help students work on job applications for companies that couldn’t attend in person.  I hope this career fair becomes a yearly tradition – if nothing else it is valuable practice for teens who are entering the workplace, and I am sure many will leave today having made connections that will help them transition to the next phase of their lives.

What I think was so important about this fair and the preceding workshop was our emphasis that there are so many different paths to take, that success is not about whether or not you go to college but whether or not you take advantage of the opportunities afforded you and that you follow your passions. I think sometimes I especially can get hung up on college as being the best step forward, because it certainly was the right choice for me and because I am so excited about learning. However, those of us who work with teens and children need to remember that there are many different right choices to make, and make sure we are providing resources for all of those paths of life.

Here are a few of my favorite career/life advice books that I’ve read over the past few years since leaving college. What are your favorites?

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