How Libraries Help Teens Tackle the Job Search

How Libraries Help Teens Tackle the Job Search

Finding a job is a lot like doing research for a paper. In order to find a job, teens need to know where and how to look. For teens with little or no work and job-seeking experience, the task can feel overwhelming and confusing!

How does your local library fit in? For starters, there are many job postings online and libraries provide Internet access and computer usage at no charge. Libraries also provide one-on-one assistance to job seekers of all ages. It’s recommended that you call the library before you go and ask to book an appointment with a librarian. That way, a teen services or reference librarian can prepare to spend time giving “hands-on” help without interruptions.

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As a former reference librarian, one of the tasks that gave me the greatest joy was to help job-seeking individuals, especially teens. It’s definitely not a bother to reserve time to sit down and help someone with a job search. As a librarian, it’s an awesome way to lend assistance and to make an impact on someone’s life by sharing experience and resources. It’s amazing to watch someone come into the library with a problem and leave with a smile!

Searching for Jobs Online
A librarian will help teens by showing them which sites to visit to apply for jobs and by suggesting keywords to use when visiting those sites. She can also guide teens by helping them to interpret job postings, to filter results, and to complete forms. I personally have found that although teens are aware that there are job sites out there, they often do not know how to use them.

Teens tend to absorb digital literacy skills readily though, so it was easy to show them techniques and watch them take off on their own. For example, teens need to be able to search for jobs by location, to sort part-time jobs from full-time jobs, and to understand job titles in layman’s terms. While “team member” would be an appropriate position at a restaurant for a teen seeking his or her first job, “shift coordinator” probably would not!

Most libraries also have databases with toolkits for job-seekers which include assessment tools, interview tips, career exploration services, and training systems. A librarian can lead a teen to databases, such as Gale, Proquest, and EBSCO and the show the teen how to use them. Sometimes, databases are often specific to the state that the library is located in, and include links to sites with state employment regulations.

Many counties and towns also have centers for people seeking employment. Your librarian will know about the sites for these centers and how to use them. Furthermore, she probably has connections with other local departments and knows of places where teens can work or volunteer.

Writing Right
Your teen might not have experience writing professional emails or letters of interest, and once again, librarians can be an asset by aiding them as they write. A lot of teens don’t realize that it often takes more than filling out an application to get hired. It’s important for teens to show interest by calling or emailing a potential employer and expressing the desire to work. Librarians can help teens find contact information online and use that information to follow up after submitting applications.

Librarians have lots of familiarity and experience assisting job-seekers. A librarian can lead teens to examples of letters of interest and help teens to draft their own. No matter who you’re writing to professionally, a second set of eyes can certainly help. Local librarians can be that second set of eyes for teens and also suggest what information to include when writing to a potential employer. They can also guide teens with regards to how that person should be addressed.

Since librarians regularly help people seeking employment, we aren’t new when it comes to writing to managers and local business owners. We can provide the experience that many teens don’t have yet, and we enjoy doing it!

Ready, Set, Resume!
What about writing resumes? A lot of teens have never built a resume before. Schools focus on writing essays and research papers, not writing resumes. Please don’t think I’m blaming teachers for this; I’ve been a public school teacher too!

Often the curriculum requires teachers to pack in a bunch of standards over the course of the school year. Meeting those standards means that teachers don’t always have the “wiggle room” to teach students job-seeking skills, such as resume writing.

A librarian can sit down with your teen and determine what information would be appropriate to include in a budding resume. Teens with no work experience should include information about volunteer hours, participation in school clubs, academic honors and grades, and skills. While a teen might not have any professional experience, he or she may be a lot more proficient with Microsoft Office than an older competitor.

Many libraries provide access to online resume builders as well. It’s so easy for teens to type their contact information and experience into the forms. Presto, instant resume!

Building Experience and Providing Opportunities
Employers — as well as colleges — love to see that teens have spent time engaging in volunteer services. Many libraries provide volunteer opportunities for teens. Even if your library does not, your librarian can point teens in the direction of a department, such as Parks and Recreation, which does give teens volunteer opportunities.

As a public librarian, my teen volunteers were such a lifesaver! They were a big help when it came to shelving books, assisting with afternoon programs for children and the elderly, and sorting materials like flyers. In return, my teen volunteers not only had a lot of fun and hated to leave the library, but they acquired valuable experience and the volunteer hours they needed. I’ve also come in handy to teen volunteers whenever they’ve needed reference letters, and I’ve written several.

Many libraries will give teens “volunteer hours” for joining their Teen Advisory Boards (TABs) and attending meetings and events. Teen volunteers help libraries by suggesting books and other materials for young adults, as well as suggesting engaging programs. Teens worked with me as volunteers, but they were “paid” in snacks and always had a great time!

Into the Future
Librarians lead teens to library resources which will prepare teens not only for their first jobs, but will help them to explore potential careers for their futures as well. Libraries have great books and other career readiness materials for young adults. A librarian can also help teens to determine the education they will need to find their dream jobs.