More competition means summer job seekers need 'soft skills'

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By Amber Coulter

The summer job outlook for students out of school doesn’t reflect a lagging economy in most ways.

The only exception might be more competition coming from adults in the job market, said Tommy Wheatley, regional program manager of the Lincoln Trail area of the Office of Employment and Training.

Unemployment might be contributing to more adults than usual seeking fast-food jobs that make up the greatest opportunity young people have of landing summer jobs, Wheatley said.

Young people can do some things to increase their chances of landing one of those jobs. There is increased focus among employers in looking for “soft skills,” which include showing up for work on time, having good attendance and dressing professionally for interviews, Wheatley said.

They also can increase chances to being hired by being willing to devote themselves to 40-hour weeks of job hunting. Many employers will be impressed by candidates who show up for their first interview of the day at 8 a.m. and look professional, he said.

“If they’re looking for work, they should treat it like a job,” he said.

Any Lincoln Trail Career Center location has booklets and other information meant to help young job seekers learn how to impress prospective employers.

Wheatley said it’s important for young people to work hard once they break through the tougher-than-usual competition and the job.

He said any job can lead to a career and he knows of several workers who turned summer jobs into careers by impressing their bosses and getting hired full time.

Even young workers who don’t want to turn their fast-food job into a lifelong career can learn important lessons, such as the value of a dollar, Wheatley said.

“They learn the importance and the value of having a good work ethic,” he said. “You’re going to gain skills in any occupation you have.”

Those workers also can receive strong references from their first employer as they enter the field in which they want to start a career. Those fields might not include compiling meal orders, but they will require the same soft skills that summer employers want to see, Wheatley said.

Peggy Snow, youth coordinator at John Hardin High School, said students can learn a lot from summer jobs, and the jobs are important to students who have to pay for their own car insurance and gas, buy their own equipment for sports teams, pay for extra-curricular trips and pay for other expenses that arise during the school year.

Snow said she knows young people will have to do a better job than ever of proving they’re responsible because more competition for summer jobs gives employers a lot of options.

“They have the luxury of being picky,” she said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.