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For Teens, Is Any Job A Good Job?

For Teens, Is Any Job A Good Job?

Eight bucks an hour plus tips. Drake Elliot says it’s not so bad to be a pizza delivery driver. Especially since the job comes with perks.

“You’re above a civilian slightly, like I can double park in the middle of the street, hold up my pizza bag and be like, ‘It’s okay ma’am, I’m a pizza delivery driver. I’m just doing my job.’” he said.

And at 20 years-old, the Santa Barbara, California community college student has already had a lot of jobs. “Well I’ve been an administrative assistant. I’ve worked as an intern at a graphic design company. I’ve been a janitor. I’ve been a counselor at a skateboard camp. I’ve worked as a painter. I’ve worked doing carpentry,” said Elliot.

That’s not even counting the jobs that Elliot doesn’t put on his resume. Once he tried laying tiles for a home remodel -- but had no idea what he was doing. He broke half the tiles and was fired the same day.

Elliot says with so few jobs available to people his age, he’ll try anything. Ultimately he wants to be a therapist. But in the meantime, he’s trying to build skills and figure out what he’s good at. Occasional failure is actually part of his plan.

Bonnie Bell is a career coach in Oakland, California. “ I think it could be a very good strategy for some people to just try a whole bunch of stuff and see what works,” she said. Bell thinks it’s not necessarily a red flag to have lots of short-term jobs on your resume.

“It could be a conglomerate of experience that you get two weeks here, two weeks there. Somebody could brag about -- in an interview eventually -- I’ve had 12 jobs and out of that I’ve found this...”

Bell says young people have to turn their job history into a narrative that makes sense. So after 10 different jobs…what can you say you’ve learned?

Ben Knudtson had the opposite problem last summer. He had just graduated high school and had zero job experience. Playing guitar wasn’t paying the bills, so he applied to coffee shops, record stores, retail...basically anything. Knudtson kept striking out. Until he saw a flyer.

“It said like, “Need a job fast? Love the environment? Call this number,” said Knudtson.

So he called and two days later he got a job canvassing. You know, the people who approach you on the street and say, “Hey you! Yeah you. Do you have second to help save the environment?”

Most people don’t stop. Canvassers face constant rejection, trying to meet a daily quota to keep their jobs. Knudtson lasted a month before quitting. According to one sociologist’s study, most canvassers only survive two weeks.

Canvassing is one of the few jobs teens can get that doesn’t require previous experience. But is such a short term job really worth it? I asked career coach Bonnie Bell.
“Two weeks of that experience is much better than two weeks of doing nothing. You have to learn to think on your feet. You have to engage people,” she said.

These skills are essential to any job. Knudtson says the canvassing job wasn’t a total waste. He made a couple hundred bucks and put it on his resume… emphasizing the customer service and people skills he acquired.

A year later, Knudtson now has three jobs he likes better. One even lets him explore his passion for guitar rock, at a music magazine.

This story is part of our series Jobstacles, from Youth Radio's New Options Desk...which reports on how young adults find work.

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