Teenagers learn dos and don'ts of job application process at Hedberg Public Library

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, March 29, 2014

JANESVILLE—A job candidate sporting ripped jeans, headphones and an unenthusiastic attitude?

No thank you.

A candidate wearing khakis or a dress, arriving on time and has enthusiasm for the job?

Much better, and far more memorable, Shelley Slapak told a group of teenagers at Hedberg Public Library's Job Skills for Teens event Saturday morning.

Slapak, Janesville's recreation director, gave tips to the teenagers who got out of bed and showed initiative in the job search. Something that already makes them stand out.

“Keep doing things like this and it's only going to help you out,” Slapak said.

This is the fifth year the library has hosted events on employment for teenagers.

It began as a job fair where employers in the area came, handed out applications, and spoke with teens looking for jobs. In 2012, the library transitioned from a job fair to an information session where teens are given tips on how to fill out applications, what employers are looking for, how to craft the perfect resume, and how to nail that job interview.

“Education is really important not only for kids in high school but those skills can transfer to college and beyond,” Laurie Bartz, Hedberg's young adult librarian, said. “These are definitely skills for a lifetime.”

Educating students on the job application process and expanding such opportunities as internships and co-ops for students in high school and college is one way to help navigate the dismal job market for teens, according to a study completed by the Brookings Institution.

The study revealed 45 percent of teens  ages 16-19 were employed in 2000 compared to 26 percent of teens in 2011, the lowest percentage post World War II.

Employment rates also fell for young adults ages 20-24.

Sixty-one percent of young adults were employed in 2011 compared to 72 percent in 2000.

The study followed youth employment rates in the 100 largest metro areas using Census and Department of Labor data.

The teen employment rates fell among all races and ethnic groups.

Prior work experience plays a large role in landing the next job, according to the study.

But Bartz and Slapak said don't allow not having previous employment deter you because volunteer work goes a long way. Babysitting and mowing the lawn also count.

“If kids can't get jobs yet, they can network and get skills” by volunteering, Bartz said.

Slapak also suggests talking up any volunteer work in an interview and expanding on what it has taught you and how it is applicable to the position applied for.

Sarah Gerarden, a sophomore at Parker High School, attended the skills session because she is looking for a job for next year to help prepare for college.

She wants to show employers she is ambitious and “that I really want a job and that I'm willing to do the work to get there.”

The majority of Sarah's friends aren't looking for jobs, she said, but the ones who applied “have gotten jobs pretty easily.”

Another attendee said the same thing about himself and his friends.

Zachary Zagelow, sophomore at Edgerton High School, worked part-time at Shopko over the fall and winter break.

Even though Zachary has filled out applications before, he said the skills session taught him about having the right attitude and to be hardworking.

His mother, Gina Zagelow, also attended and found it beneficial for Zachary to hear dos and don'ts from interviewers rather than just herself or Zachary's father.

She acknowledged the job market for teens is bleaker than when she was a teenager applying for jobs more than 20 years ago.

“I feel there are higher expectations, which there should be,"
Zagelow said. When she was a teenager working at Shopko the job application process didn't seem as difficult, she said.

 “There's a lot of competition out there,” Zagelow said in regards to teenagers and adults applying for the same jobs. “There are people with more experience.”

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