Finding your first job

Posted June 18, 2013, by Jo Messer

When you’re a student looking for your very first job it can be hard to know where to start – but getting a part-time job while you’re at school is a great thing to do. You’ll be able to earn some pocket money while developing your skills and building your experience, and you’ll have to learn time management to organise your time between work and study – something that will come in really handy in future. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Prepare a resume

This doesn’t need to be fancy, just a straightforward Word document will suffice. You need to include your name and contact details, an objective so the employer knows what you’re looking for, and list your relevant skills (computer, communication, team work), achievements/awards, and extracurricular activities such as sport or volunteer work. Employers won’t be expecting a long work history, so a simple one-page document would be fine.

Know where to look

A customer service position in the retail or hospitality industry is a common first job, and there’s nothing better than working in an area that you’re actually interested in. Think about the types of things you like, like sport, music, art or fashion. If you love sport, then a job at a sports store or as a sports umpire/referee could be something you would enjoy. If you’re really into music, then why not go for a job in a music shop? 


Talk to your friends to find out if there are any positions available where they work. Get the name of the manager and find out the best time to contact them, and whether you should email, phone or drop in. Make sure you mention your friend’s name when you make contact. Also talk to your parents and ask them if they know anyone who would be good to speak to. 

Explore your neighbourhood

Take a walk to your local shops or shopping centre, as shops often put signs up in their windows advertising vacancies. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately and bring a few copies of your resume so if you do come across something of interest, you’ll be able to speak to the manager and give them your resume straight away.

Speak to the right person

It’s important you speak to the person who makes the hiring decisions. Always ask for the manager as the first point of contact. If they’re not available, find out when would be a good time to come back or call. Be considerate about the time of day you drop in – don’t rock up to a café or shop during peak time. Also, don’t interrupt a staff member if they’re talking to a customer; politely wait your turn and then explain why you are there.

Application forms

Some organisations, like Coles, Woolworths or Big W, will expect you to fill out an application form. Have a look on their websites to see if this is something best done online or in person. If you’re completing an application form in person, make sure you write neatly and that your application is free from spelling mistakes.


You need to think about how you’re going to get to work. Can you walk there or will you need to catch the bus or train? There’s no point finding a great part-time job but then realising that it will take you hours to get there!

Some final tips

Dress neatly and make sure you’re clean and tidy – and be conservative, unless you’re applying for a job in a funky clothing store. Speak clearly and be enthusiastic about why you want the job. It’s also a good idea to check in on a monthly basis to see if any new positions have opened up.

Jo Messer

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