Anxiety and Your First Job
If you are a teen getting ready to enter the job market, anxiety may very well interfere not only with your job search – but with starting your first job. While there are dozens if not hundreds of jobs available in your town right now, you may have trouble finding a position. When we have a job market with low unemployment, employers will choose someone with experience over a teen with no proven record.
All teens experience some anxiety. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, and sometimes it helps teens deal with tense or overwhelming situations. For many teens, things like public speaking, job interviews, exams, important competitions, or even going out on a date can cause feelings of nervousness and discomfort. They may also experience an increase in heartbeat or excessive sweating. That’s how the teenage brain reacts to anxious feelings.
When you decide to start looking for that first job, do yourself a favor: learn about what’s available in your area, whom you might know that could write you a reference, or friends and acquaintances from school who can put in a good word with a manager. Oftentimes, retail and restaurant establishments have difficulty keeping good workers and a good word from a friend can go a long way. But, the first step is applying for the job.
Application or Resume
When you are looking for that first job, a resume would most likely not be helpful – unless you have done a lot of community service, church service, or belong to clubs that give back to the community. If you have that kind of experience, have a trusted adult with experience help you write a resume.
Most likely, you will start with filling out applications. These can be done either online or on paper – some companies even have you do their screening application on your smartphone and then text you for an interview! If you’ve never filled out an application, it can be a bit overwhelming – and that can cause anxiety. You will be asked to enter or write down a lot of information that you normally rely on your smartphone to find – like addresses and phone numbers of your school, or phone numbers and job titles of references.
To avoid creating an anxiety producing environment, sit down and fill out applications with an older sibling or parent the first time. They can answer questions for you, tell you what information employers are looking for, and help you determine whether or not your babysitting job or lawn mowing job are worth putting on the application as experience. Trust them. If they are working a steady job, they know what they are doing.
The anxiety of filling out applications comes from not ever having had to answer certain questions before and not knowing what employers are looking for. It’s like taking a test you didn’t study for. That is why it is so important that you have help the first few times you fill out applications.
Another anxiety inducing part of the process is waiting for interviews. More often than not, you will need to fill out dozens of applications before you get your first interview – and that is frustrating. There is no doubt that, when searching for a job, time seems to creep by. Some like to believe that hiring managers sit at their desk tapping their fingers together, purposefully being evil, and making anxious candidates wait.
You need to realize that employers may have responsibilities other than hiring candidates. Hiring managers would love to get through all the applicants as quickly as possible; but, like any job, things pop up that require immediate attention. It’s important to remember this, take a deep breath, and be patient. Eventually, that first phone call will come, and you will schedule your first interview.
If you thought the application process was nerve-wracking, the anxiety that comes from your first few interviews can be intense. It’s important to have an idea of what questions will be asked at an interview so you can be prepared:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should we hire you?
- Do you have any questions for me?
When you think about each question, there are certain “right” and “wrong” ways to answer. For instance, when asked the question, “Tell me about yourself”, don’t start with “I don’t know” or “I really love to party with my friends on the weekends”. Most jobs given to teenagers will require weekend work. You can’t have a part-time job and have weekends off.
When asked about your strengths, the answers employers are looking for include being on time, being a hard worker, willing to learn and do anything needed, intelligent, loyal, and excited about starting your first job. It is not a strength to say you are good at attracting social media followers or that you kick butt at online video games. Most first jobs will be in a restaurant or retail store, where these things are irrelevant.
Talking about your weaknesses can be very anxiety inducing. No one likes to talk about their weaknesses. The key here is to list weaknesses that can be turned into positives, such as perfectionism (that means you are detail-oriented and will always do your best), overly organized (that means you have a place for everything and will put everything in its place), lack of experience (that means you are a blank slate open to learning), or lack of confidence (that means you are pliable and can be molded into a confident, well-trained employee).
When asked why you want the job, don’t blow it. This is the point where many teenagers give an honest answer that destroys their chances of getting the job. Bad answers to this question are varied:
- I need money
- My parents are making me work
- I want to get out of the house
- My best friend works here
- I heard working here is easy
- I need to save up for a car
While honesty is usually a good policy, these answers are not going to help you. But, you can rephrase them to make them appropriate:
- I’m saving money for after high school
- I want to help out with bills at home
- I am looking for new experiences outside of school
- I know I can make great friends here
- I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this job
- I’m saving money to buy my first car
You may be saying pretty much the same thing, but the second list is the one that employers are interested in hearing. The same process can be followed with the question Why should we hire you? Don’t give some arrogant or goofy answer to try to either impress the interviewer or make them laugh. It is a serious question and they want a serious answer:
- I will work hard and be there when you need me
- I learn quickly and can apply what I’ve learned
- My parents taught me about work ethic and how important it is
- I want to be successful in my first job, and that makes your company successful
- I want to take what I learn here into my future jobs
Employers appreciate teens who can be honest and who will follow through. Don’t say these things if you don’t mean them. Know what work ethic is, be willing to work hard, and don’t roll your eyes at the notion of being trained for something. Nobody knows how to do everything.
At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. If it has been a thorough interview, you may not have any questions and it’s okay to say so. But, there are some standard questions employers would expect:
- Do you know when you will be making the hiring decision?
- What is the starting pay range?
- When do you need someone to start?
- Can you work around exams with scheduling?
- Can I play sports and still work here?
Once your interview is over, make sure to thank the interviewer for his or her time and tell him or her that you look forward to hearing from the company soon. The day after your interview, either email or call your interviewer to once again say thank you for their time and how much you appreciated being able to interview for the job.
Now comes the worst part: the waiting. Even if you have a great interview your very first time out, don’t expect to get the job. Proceed as if you aren’t getting the job and continue putting in applications and going to additional interviews. You may get called back for a second interview or you could be offered a job! Once you have accepted a job, it’s time to start training.
Orientation and Day One
Orientation is the process of getting new employees familiar with the company, policies and rules, and what to expect in a regular shift. When you attend an orientation for a new job, you will meet a lot of people and be given a ton of information. Your employer will brief you on daily procedures – like clocking in and clocking out, where to put your belongings, what to wear – as well as explain your responsibilities and tasks and introduce you to people you’ll be working with. Near the end of orientation, you will be informed about your first schedule and when to report for your first day at work.
If your first job is with a larger company that has a number of new hires, you could be part of a group orientation or it could be just you. The orientation may be formal with scheduled sessions held on one or several days, or it could be more casual. A lot of questions will come up as you are presented with all this new information. Be an active listener, but don’t be afraid to bring up any questions or concerns. However, do it tactfully, without interrupting the orientation process.
To avoid any additional anxiety at orientation, there are steps you can take to prepare for orientation:
Call Ahead – It doesn’t hurt to give your employer a ring a few days before the orientation and ask if there’s anything specific you need to bring or anything you need to know in advance.
Dress Appropriately – Unless you were given specific instructions, look clean and polished. Where comfortable shoes as you will probably be on your feet for a while.
Arrive Early – Be there early and check in with your supervisor. Don’t be late on the first day!
Bring a Notebook and a Pen – There’s no way you can remember everything you’ve learned on the first day, and it’s nice to have the resources on hand in case there’s anything crucial you need to write down. You can also take note of any questions that come up during the orientation.
Have Your Personal Information on Hand – You will be required to fill out a W4 tax form, in which case you’ll need to know your Social Security number as well as your relevant tax details. Bring a copy of this information. It can also be useful to bring your banking information (bank account and routing numbers or a blank check) so you can set up direct deposit for your paycheck.
Inquire About What’s Next – Impress your employer by taking the initiative and asking what’s next. Will there be formal job training? Is there additional orientation? Will you start off as a regular employee the next time you come in?
When you have all the necessary information, you’ll be able to start your new job with confidence as you adjust to the workplace. Even though it’s okay to be anxious that first day, your anxiety will lessen the more you know before the first day.
Your first day is where the anxiety can really kick in! Just like a first day at school or a first time going to a new place, the first day on the job is mentally and emotionally tough. You will be with a new group of people, in a new environment, while learning new skills and trying to remember everything you’re being taught. You will have anxiety – and it is perfectly normal.
To keep your anxiety under control, keep these things in mind:
- You will make mistakes and it’s okay
- You can’t perfect your job in one shift
- Expect to learn something new every day
- Your bosses are watching, but they are watching how you handle your mistakes
- When you make a mistake, admit it and ask for help
- Every person in the place was in your shoes at one time – they understand
If you start to feel overwhelmed, there is no shame in asking for a bathroom break. Go to the restroom, take deep breaths, splash some water on your face, and remind yourself it’s just the first day and you are going to get better and better as your training continues.
Finding and starting that first job can be an anxiety producing process – even if you don’t have an anxiety diagnosis. But, there are many steps you can take to reduce your anxiety and find support in filling out applications, going to interviews, and making it through orientation.
If your anxiety is incredibly stressful and keeps you from engaging with your job or with even getting or keeping one, you have options. At Beachside, we pride ourselves on providing comprehensive mental health treatment for teenagers who are struggling with mental health issues and may need residential treatment to help them manage it. Have your parent or guardian contact us today!