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Encounter with a job hunting teenager

Going to the mall is always an adventure. When darling hubby (DH) and I go together it’s doubly so. He works in a local high school, so almost anywhere we go in town we see “his kids.” It’s like hanging out with a celebrity with all the teenagers yelling “Hi, Mr. Gary”, waving and hugging. Today, we were at Penny’s, looking for new jeans for him and the usual thing happened. We saw lots of “his children.” However, the last one stuck with me. He told me I was a buzzkill.

There we were, waiting in line to pay for DH’s jeans. He spotted a boy (OK, young man) from his high school and stepped out of line to speak with him. I stayed in line, but could hear the conversation.

Hubby (DH): Hey man. What’s up? What ya doin’?
Young Man (YM): I’m here looking for a job, filling out a few applications.

© Marilyn Barbone | Up to this point, I’d barely acknowledged the exchange. The kid said the word “job” and “application” and I immediately turned in – imagine that. The check-out line was slow moving, so I had time to join the conversation. Mind you, I’d not paid much attention when the young man passed by originally, but after hearing his primary reason for being in the mall today (Sunday) was for job search (Sunday?) he had my complete attention. As I turned, I now looked at him with a career coaching eye.

The conversation continued.
DH: So you’re looking for a job?
YM: Yup. Thought I drop by and fill out a couple of applications.

He’s wearing tennis shoes, shorts, a t-shirt (with a logo of some sort – at least it wasn’t a questionable saying) and a knit jacket.

Me: You’re here applying for a job?
YM: Yes ma’am.

And golly gee, before the filter that stops everything that pops into my head from coming out my mouth even had a chance to operate, I blurted out, “Dressed like that?”

YM: Yes ma’am.
Me: Really?
YM: Well. I’m on my way to the gym.
Me: No excuse. (Smiling.) I should explain. I’m a resume writer. That’s what I do for a living. I work with people seeking employment every day.
YM: Guess I should have come after the gym.
Me: Yes. After you’ve changed clothes and are ready to make a good first impression.
DH: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Me: I’m sorry. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything.
YM: Well. It is kind of a buzzkill.
Me: I know. I’ve been called worse.

He bade farewell and quickly left. (Gee. I wonder why?) I know what you’re thinking. Lighten up Dawn. He’s a kid. It’s “just” a job in the mall. But, think about this. At some point he’ll graduate. I don’t know his future plans – school or work – but I do know one thing, his future will include a job search. And in most instances, you don’t advance your career in shorts and a t-shirt. (And you’re never too young to learn that lesson.)

Perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything. I regret if I embarrassed him, but if two minutes worth of buzzkill helps him land his next job, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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  1. I know the feeling, Dawn. I’ve coached clients on what to wear and for the unfortunate young person who wanders into my home office… and with two sons, now 23 and 24, over the years, I have had plenty of young people wander through, they say job hunt and the resume writer’s ears perk up. And I have been known to say, remember to… “cut your hair, wear your best clothes, change your shoes…” You know what, now those young people call me, Facebook me, ask me to coach them on how to prepare for the next interview… Just keep on being a buzzkill! 🙂

  2. Gayle Howard says:

    Really enjoyed the post Dawn. I guess there were a few pluses for this young man. He called you “Ma’am” (so the kid had manners. How many these days would have smart-mouthed back?). He was wanting a job (there are plenty who don’t and are happy just to lean on the walls with a sour expression). He was keen enough to do something about a job on a Sunday (initiative?) and he was going to the gym (he was potentially fit and energetic and wanted to stay that way). So while you may have been a grumpy ol’ buzzkill, your intervention for this young man, may just have been the one missing link he needed to make a perfect package. Good for him and good for you too!

  3. Dawn Lennon says:

    Dawn, this was just too good! Kudos to you for speaking up. Better that a dose of reality come from you before this young man faces the downside of not sprucing up his look.

    You remind me of a college student who was part of a mock interview session with me. He was a nice young man from the mid-West, smart enough to remove his earing and wear a suit. He was nervous and did his best. At the end, I complimented him and then added, “It’s my responsibility to advise you on some subtleties: First, press your shirt (it looked like he’d slept in it. A jacket only covers so much); have your pants tailors so that they don’t lay like a potato sack over your shoes (okay, I softened that), and try a bit a polish on your footware.”

    I felt I owed it to that young man, just like you did. That’s what it means to be a service business. It’s just in our blood! Great post!

    • Dawn says:

      Dawn – (GREAT name. LOL)

      Hubby told me tonight the young man in question landed an interview. Know what? He wore a tie to the interview. Know what else? He GOT the job. In my own small mind, I’d like to think I helped make that happen.

      It never hurts to be reminded to breathe once in awhile. And you’re sooooo right about it being in our blood. I’d rather have him momentarily upset, than miss an opportunity in the future. When he’s the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, I hope he remembers the buzzkill who played a minuscule role in helping him reach his greatest potential.

      Loved your college student story. The way I see it, if they want to be told they’re wonderful, they’ll ask mom and their friends. If they want the truth, they’ll engage and listen to an objective third party.

      THANKS for stopping by and adding such value to the conversation.

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