I'm job hunting again and it isn't going well.
August 9, 2012 2:45 PM   Subscribe

What can a high school graduate with no college experience do to pad her resume?

I quit my jobs around a month ago because of personal issues going on in my life. I've been searching for a new job for around a month now, and the only bite I've had has been from for a sales position that didn't work out.

Most of the jobs I've applied for only required me to send in my resume. I've sent out many copies and can count the number of responses I've gotten on one hand.

What are some attractive qualifications, certificates, diplomas, volunteer work, etc I can do to increase my chances of finding a job? I don't care what field it's in right now as I'm getting desperate. My only stipulation is that I would prefer it not to be in an area with minimal human contact, because I would go crazy if I had to work by myself most of the time.

My current resume has most of my experience centered in customer service and animal care. The local animal care places aren't interested; one told me he didn't feel he could provide me with the hours/pay I was used to and even though I told him I didn't mind he seemed skeptical. There was one company in that field that were incredibly interested until they found out I'd have to relocate 3 hours away. I told them I didn't mind doing that (I really didn't!) but they stopped responding, their tone before that seemed to be that it really wasn't the type of job worth moving for. So, I think that my previous experience is keeping me out of that field right now.

The customer service jobs I've applied to just don't seem to be interested at all. Not sure why. I'm not discriminatory in where I apply either; McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, wherever.

That's enough rambling... hopefully it's all relevant. I'm an early twenties female. My highest education level is high school, no internships, extracurricular activities, clubs, awards, anything. My resume basically consists of work experience and volunteer work at an animal shelter. Please help?
posted by Autumn to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who's currently applying to jobs as a college student with no skills: It feels really good to be able to say "I have experience balancing the register at the end of the night" or "I have experience working without supervision." Even if you have to work at McDonald's or whatever, try to get a least a couple of shifts like that so you can say stuff like that.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2012

My husband insists that the key to getting a job in customer service/waitstaff/retail jobs is to bug them until they hire you. Hand over your resume to a manager in person, and then show up again the next day to follow up. If they don't flat tell you no, show up again the next day. I have not tried this myself, but his cousin tried the strategy this summer and snagged a job at Trader Joe's.

If you are proficient in any particular computer software, I would include that on your resume. Liking people + MS Office -> admin assistant jobs.
posted by hishtafel at 3:30 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried going through a temp agency? Temp jobs count as work experience.
posted by erst at 3:44 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Both explicitly train you with skills that can help you get a job and pay you to do so. AmeriCorps also has an educational voucher awarded upon completion of service which you could use to go to college or get further job training.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:50 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Although it has been a decade or more, both of my sisters worked for temp agencies and both of them ended up in long term jobs; it seems that companies (such as General Mills, in one of their cases) are not averse to extending full-time offers to temps.
posted by mr. digits at 3:56 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the future, instead of saying "I don't mind" to downplay negative aspects of the job, you might consider giving more of a narrative answer. "I've been hoping to move further west so I can be closer to my grandmother." "Reduced hours would be great for me because I'm working on my XYZ certification."

Employers know that people in fact do mind long commutes and low hours and pay. Tell them why you're different!
posted by Hermes32 at 3:57 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

There may be two things going on. One, your area may simply not have enough jobs. When I was in my early twenties and finishing my BA I was the only one of my friends with a job; years later I found out that statistically the unemployment rate for 18-24 yr olds in my region was 60%. Employers can't hire you for jobs that don't exist or for which they get hundreds of applicants. If nothing is tying to you where you live you may want to consider moving to a more employable area. If you don't want to commit to a move first, you can get a burner phone with the local area code and rent a mailbox/borrow a friend's address to put on your resume. Personally, I would go with that option but choose several different places with the expectation you will move where ever offeres you a decent job first.

Second, forgive me but I looked at you past question history (I was actually trying to figure out where you lived), and you seem to have had a rough few years with being fired several times. On top of quitting a job you only just got last month, your resume may be looking a bit flakey. Can you drop some of your jobs off your resume and leave only the ones that will give you good reviews/show strong skills? It sounds like you are looking for entry level work anyway and less jobs look for attractive to employers (less entitlement/expectation of higher pay). Do you have a convincing narrative of your jobs/education that makes you appear proactive rather than reactive? Make the story fit a narrative that lead you to the fantastic opportunity that the employer is offering right now that is a perfect fit for what you have been working towards for several years. This is a time to fake it till you make it; like relationships, desperation in job searchers is a turn-off. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 4:28 PM on August 9, 2012

Nthing temp jobs. I got a temp job several years ago that was sooooo low level I was embarrassed, but I did well, was promoted almost weekly, made permanent, and ultimately moved up the ranks in the company over several years and left quite high up. Just getting in and proving myself was all it took. It doesn't always work out this way, but at the very least, it gives you a wide range of experience and shows that you're flexible, that you learn quickly, and that you're willing to work. This latter point is very important if your resume has gaps in it, suggesting a reluctance to stick with it.
posted by Capri at 4:43 PM on August 9, 2012

Not sure if this applies to your area, but check if there are job training opportunities for women (often offered by churches, nonprofits or state agencies). You could call ETA's toll-free help line at (877) US2-JOBS for more info.
With a completed training you would a) possibly have new skills b) show you can commit for a (say 10 week) course and are capable of learning c) network and possibly get placement assistance d) get a certificate.

Also look for other places than the obvious ones - what other, less visible companies exist where you live? Places like moving companies or recycling firms need staff in customer care/ office / administration as well and most likely get way less applicants than the stores at the mall.
Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 5:35 PM on August 9, 2012

I started out in customer service. The kind you do in a call center. It's the best way to get into a company since you learn all the hard stuff first, plus if you get on with AT&T or an Electric Company or American Express, you have all kinds of opportunity to move up.

Do a functional resume where you list your skills in bullet points.

Build your skills, there are Excel and Word tutorials on line. If you're not expert in them, do modules so that you can put those skills on your resume.

Don't list the stuff that's blindingly obvious about a job on the resume. For example, if you were a cashier, don't say: Took customer orders, worked the cash register, cleaned the bathroom.

Instead highlight the things that made you do your job excellently:

- Achieved a perfectly balanced register 90% of the time

- Employee of the Month, June 2012

- Consistently upsold orders, adding an average of 15% to each order. (Nearly everyone does it, but it takes a special snowflake to recognize that it's an amazing skill and to put it on the resume.)

Go on line and see resumes. Don't lie, just emphasize the best things about you and about how you work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

What hishtafel wrote sounds correct. When I was a high school graduate with few job skills, I got a waitressing job once just by going in to a local diner and then showing up again the next day to follow up. If you do that enough times, it's hard for me to believe that you won't happen to be in the right place at the right time when someone immediately needs a waitress (turnover is high and waitresses tend to quit during high-traffic times) and will hire any warm body that appears in front of them.

You can also potentially make better money as a waitress than you can at the fast food chains you mentioned in your post. Just try to avoid touristy places and rather focus on spots that locals frequent (repeat customers tip better).
posted by parrot_person at 1:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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