Everyone knows that getting a job is the first step to earning a paycheck and getting a promotion, but figuring out how to land a job as a Philly teen is akin to deciphering a foreign language without a textbook.
It’s hard. It’s hard because employers put interviewees on the spot and ask tough, personal questions. It's also hard because most teenagers don’t know what to expect from the interview process. How long is an interview? What will they ask? What if you have a family commitment scheduled during your first months on the new job?
One of the purposes of NBW’s Leadership and Advanced Mechanics Course (LAMC) is to act as a textbook – to demystify the hiring process and to let young people practice interview skills. Last week, we invited five individuals who work in the bike industry to share stories about how they got their jobs and what those jobs entail. Students were able to learn from a group that included bike mechanics, bike advocacy coordinators, and everything in between. Representatives from Indego, Advanced Sports International (maker of Fuji Bikes), Trophy Bikes, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia participated.
Amir asked the panelists, “How did you get the job you currently have?” while JJ followed up with, “What skills or experiences do you need to succeed in your job?”
Panelists responses varied widely, and included technical skills like what students learn in Earn-A-Bike, in addition to qualities such as a willingness to learn and ability to troubleshoot. From Waffiyah, Safe Routes Philly Coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition: “staying organized is key. Google Drive is my best friend.” Students laughed along as Mike, owner of Trophy Bikes, acted out selling a bike and reminded everyone, “no one has ever died selling a bike. You are doing a good deed!”
Following the panel, LAMC students soaked up tips during mock interviews and small group conversations. Two students were floored to find out about the three step process one of the panelists went through to get her current position. A phone interview, in-person interview, and essay questions were more than they bargained for. What else did the students learn? Punctuality is a hallmark of professionalism. Many employers disregard the applications of interviewees who arrive late. And what to do when you get someone's business card? Pro tip from Mike of Trophy: on the card write down when and where you picked up the card. When you follow up with the person, you'll be able to tell them exactly when and where you met.
Beyond the many tips and tricks panelists shared, the main takeaway: getting a job isn’t magic. It is about a lot of things – technical skills, attitude, references, networking, and more, but it isn’t predestined, accidental, or a miracle. It won’t be easy, but with a little practice and some extra insight from the pros, our youth leaders will be a lot more prepared.