A helpful guide to finding your first job

an introduction to Sehome’s new Career Center

Sam Risser

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Since teens were toddlers, they’ve fantasized about the career that they will have one day as adults. Kids who now walk the halls of Sehome once idolized firefighters, police officers, pilots, and astronauts, dreaming that one day they would be just like these adults in the workforce. However, as teens, people aren’t so certain about their career paths anymore, because they’ve matured so much in both perspective and interests. They begin to ask questions like ‘where do I begin looking for work? What do I want to do?’ Most importantly, ‘where do I start?’

No need to fear, because you’re not alone! Many high schoolers across the country are currently looking for ways to make money, gain experience, and begin their transition into the working world. Moreover, there is an abundance of resources at students’ disposal here at Sehome.

To broaden your horizons, take a trip over to Sehome’s new Career Center, which branches off to the left from the counseling hall and overlooks the commons. Sehome Career Center Assistant Martha Zender helps students on a daily basis, providing guidance to students who are looking to begin working but aren’t sure where to start. Zender gathers information related to job fairs, career workshops, and other work-related community opportunities, which she synthesizes for students as easily understandable papers and handouts.

“I produce the Hot Jobs [sheet] for pretty much the whole district, we share it,” Zender said. “I make it a goal every other week to create a new one and update our listings. I use resources like Indeed.com and Snagajob.com; we also receive a lot of job postings from the community.”

Zender wants to make it clear to each and every student that one of the first things they should do when searching for a job is to type up a resume. She encourages kids to begin thinking about the qualifications and characteristics or personality traits that may be appealing to employers and thinks one should always keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to become more qualified for work.

“Create a resume; we have a workbook here [in the Career Center],” Zender said. “It’s very small and simple to do, usually during anchor time we can get it pretty much done.”

Work experience during high school, Zender says, enables you, as what you learn can have many practical applications throughout life.

“[Working] helps to build skills, and helps you discover things you like to do and don’t like to do,” Zender said. “Some jobs you get, even McDonalds, they offer scholarships and… you can actually earn some scholarships to assist with school.”

Many of Sehome’s staff and students, who have had experience in the working world, also encourage younger students to branch out and begin considering their options. Science Teacher Chuck Schelle is a vocal advocate of teens involving themselves in their communities through work, often showcasing job opportunities to his students via the most recent “Hot Jobs” sheet. Schelle wants students to know that school doesn’t have to be the only location in which learning takes place.

“I feel pretty strongly that work experience gives students a look at some realities beyond high school,” Schelle said. “A lot of times I think money is abstract until you discover how hard it is to earn.”

Students who have joined the workforce, like James Karb (12) and Devon Bumstead (11), agree with Schelle, and think that there’s a lot to learn as a member of a working community. Looking back to when they first started looking for work, they noted a number of things they thought important when looking for a first job.

“I work at Transition Bikes; I clean bikes and work on them as a part time thing,” Bumstead said. “If you’re into something, or you have a presence in some type of activity and there’s stuff related to that you’d want to work with, you could try to reach out to companies and organizations and see if they need any help.”

Karb works at a family-owned church building, as well as at Bellingham Healthcare and Rehabilitation, which is a care facility for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. He recommends that kids utilize any connections you might have in a workplace, saying that it can be really helpful in getting that first ever-so-valuable work experience that can eventually help you get a better job.

“[Working] gives you better insight into the world you’re going to be thrown into after high school,” Karb said. “Also, job experience is really good for scholarship applications and stuff, [in terms of having] both sets of academic and workforce experience.”

Schelle echoes the words of Karb, saying that when one is first beginning to look for a job, they shouldn’t worry as much about where they’re working as long as it’s experience. As someone who started out working as a Courtesy Clerk at Safeway, Schelle knows that any job will prove valuable, no matter the pay nor the quality of the job itself.

“You quickly learn that the entry-level job isn’t that great,” Schelle said. “You start to see that education and learning skills are really critical for going on to a better job and living the life that you’d like to.”

All things considered, the biggest piece of advice that Sehome’s working community members have is simple: be open-minded; be willing to try new things; be willing to learn. By starting to search for a job with this mentality, one will end up both more satisfied and with an enlarged perspective on the world. Bumstead added that one sometimes has to be patient in order to move towards a greater satisfaction.

“If you want something, work for it,” Bumstead said.

For students interested in learning more about work opportunities and career paths around the greater Bellingham area, Bellingham High School is hosting a district-wide Job Fair on May 21st from 3:30 to 6 PM. While keyed more towards Juniors and Seniors and those seeking a career right out of high school, all are welcome to attend. Businesses from all over the area will have representatives there to talk with students about job opportunities and help to forge connections with students looking to work. Additionally, for those interested in more customer service-oriented jobs, the Goodwill Job Training Center has been offering free cashier and customer service training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3:30-5:30 PM. For any additional resources, feel free to visit Sehome’s Career Center, or email Zender at [email protected]