When I was a teen, growing up in northern New Hampshire, there weren’t really any good places to hang out. We didn’t have a mall. We didn’t have any coffee shops or teen-friendly restaurants. If you had asked me or my peers where we hung out after school, the vast majority of us would have said we hung out at home or at a friend’s house.
I really didn’t have a good place to hang out until I learned how to whitewater kayak. From that point on, all I wanted to do was hang out on the river, near the river, and near people who wanted to be on the river.
Right around the same time, a local entrepreneur named Fran opened a store called Wilderness Sports. It was right on the river’s edge, and it was full of boats and people who loved them. Even though it wasn’t the kind of place you’d expect to find a teenager just hanging out, it was a place I loved to visit, even when I didn’t have money to spend. I loved sitting in each of the kayaks and imagining I was on the water. I loved chatting with Fran about the new gear I thought I needed, and I loved talking to the other customers about where they had been paddling and what kind of boats they had. For a teen who had just discovered their love of kayaking, Wilderness Sports was the perfect place to hang out.
The more time I spent in the store, the more I got to know Fran, and she got to know me. Sure, I was 13, and she was almost my parents’ age, but I felt like she was a friend. Since I enjoyed spending time with her and in her store, I told her regularly that as soon as I was old enough to get a job, I wanted to work for her at Wilderness Sports.
When I turned 14, Fran wasn’t hiring. But that didn’t stop me from swinging by the store, saying hello, and checking out the new inventory on a regular basis.
Toward the end of my freshman year of high school, I got a phone call. It was Fran. She was looking for someone to watch the store for a couple hours a week in the evenings so she could teach a class at the community college. After almost two years of hanging out, building a relationship, and asking for a job, I was the first person she offered the job to, and I readily accepted.
Ithaca has a lot more going on than my small town in New Hampshire. This week, YES asked 400 teens where they like to hang out outside of school. One teen said, “This is Ithaca. Everywhere is a good place to hang out.” Even still, just like my town, many teens prefer to hang out at home or at a friend’s house (about 50%). Of those who hang out outside of their home, the top two places teens like to spend their time are on the Commons and at the Mall. Check out this map to see where Ithaca teens are spending their time:
Teens who are spending a lot of time on the commons or at the mall are surrounded by job opportunities. Based on my experience, here are 3 tips I’d offer a teen who wants to work where they hang out:
Getting a job when you’re 14 can be very difficult. Many of the larger businesses, like Target or Best Buy, have very strict age restrictions for their employees, and 14 is almost always too young. The key to getting a job, especially if you’re younger than 16, is networking.
Networking simply means that you build relationships with people, and you use those relationships to open doors to job opportunities. Hanging out at Wilderness Sports I built a relationship with the store owner, Fran, and she gave me my first job. I also built relationships with the other customers. One of those customers ended up opening a whitewater rafting company. When he was hiring raft guides, he remembered how much I loved being on the water, and that’s how I got my second job.
If you’re thinking about trying to get a job, begin networking in places you already enjoy hanging out. Spend time talking to the people who work there. Get to know the managers and the owners. Let them get to know you so they can see you would make a reliable worker.
Learn About the Business
When I first started hanging out at Wilderness Sports, I had a very basic understanding of what gear was necessary to make it safely down the river. After spending more time there and asking a lot of questions, I learned about how a life jacket should fit, what each style of boat was meant for, and what each piece of equipment was specifically designed to do.
Learning about Fran’s business and the products she was selling showed her that I was serious about my desire to work there. Additionally, the more I knew about kayaking, the more I knew I wanted to work at Wilderness Sports. By the time I actually got my job there, I had learned enough about the business that I barely needed any training on my first day of work.
If you’re looking for a job, one of the best ways to show initiative is to learn about the place you want to work. In some cases, simply spending time there might be enough to give you a sense of what the business is all about. Often times, you’ll need to ask questions or do some research. What products do they sell, and what are they used for? Why are they in business? What is their mission statement? What kind of image are they trying to portray to the public? The more you can learn, the more prepared you’ll be if and when you’re able to get a job there.
When I first asked Fran for a job, she wasn’t hiring. When I asked the second time, she wasn’t hiring. It took almost two years of my telling her that I wanted to work for her before she had a position available for me. But when that position was available, she knew I was serious, and she knew I’d want the job.
Persistence, along with a little patience, is an important step to getting the kind of job you’re looking for. Sometimes that means applying for many jobs, or asking many places if they are hiring before you find even one place to apply, and sometimes that means asking the same person if they are hiring every month. Maybe your favorite store on the commons isn’t hiring right now, and maybe they won’t be hiring the next ten times you ask. But when they are finally looking for some part time help, if you've been persistent, they will remember you, and they will remember you really want to work there.
If and when you'd like some help landing a job where you like to hang out, call the YES office at (607)273-8364. We are here to help you make connections and land the job.
Where there are people, there are smartphones. Where there are smartphones, social media apps abound. On my device, alone, I count at least 6 apps dedicated to social networking, some for fitness or crafting or sharing photos or simply staying connected with people I care about. Social media is everywhere -- literally -- and it’s even wiggled its way into the world of work.
Within an office setting, it’s not unusual to see people chatting with remote co-workers, sharing documents, or sending gifs via work-approved networks like Slack. Many businesses hire people specifically to use Snapchat to offer time-sensitive promotional codes, Instagram to announce big sales events, and Twitter and Facebook to attract people to their own websites. Additionally, these platforms may even be used to announce job openings so as to attract a broader range of applicants.
Social media seems to be slowly edging out society’s other forms of communication, such as talking on the phone, sending letters, emailing, and even text messaging. Many adults view this in a negative light, citing scientific evidence that indicates the use of social media leads to stress, feelings of loneliness and seclusion, and ultimately depression. Teens, on the other hand, seem less concerned with those potential side effects.
In a recent survey of 345 Ithaca teens, YES found that only 20% thought social media was adversely impacting them and/or the world around them. These teens believe the addictive nature of social media causes them to waste a lot of time. They recognize negativity, cyber bullying and body shaming, and their infinite capacity to harm unsuspecting users when a harmful post goes viral.
For the 31% of teens who strongly believe that social media is good for them, the benefits come down to an increase in their ability to communicate with followers and friends both near and far. Many teens turn to Instagram and Snapchat as a way to keep in touch with friends and family or to find humor in an otherwise unhappy world. One teen asked, “What would the world be without memes?” Another teen spoke about how her family tends to be narrow minded, and social media has opened up her world view and given her a perspective she would have never had without it.
But for all of the good feelings social media can provide, 46% of Ithaca’s teens recognize that social media is a two edged sword. Its effects come down to the user. Ideas can be spread, and the user determines their level of positivity. Social and political change can be proposed, and the user decides whether or not it is wise to be involved. With every share, each user has a chance to pitch their own ideas into the universe, and with every reaction, each user has a chance to create a more positive or negative social environment.
Here are some ways YES is planning to use social media to make the World Wide Web a slightly better place this year:
Youth Employment Service has been serving the Ithaca community for over 35 years. Our mission is to prepare teens for job success and connect them to work opportunities in the larger community. Since our program has helped so many teens throughout so many years, we thought this would be a great time to reconnect with past YES teens who have become successful, working members of their community. Keep an eye out by following us @yesithaca on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for stories about people who got their #StartWithYES.
TV YES is our YouTube channel. So far, you’ll find a few collections of application and interview tips from Snagajob, a photo montage of some of our YES teens working at their summer jobs, and a few short videos introducing our year-round staff. As the year progresses, we hope to create several career exploration videos, in which our teens interview various professionals around the community to find out what they do and what kind of training they needed to get there. Keep an eye out on out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for announcements about new videos, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu5ciEzoKxX1RgHTe6SzeWg.
Over the past four months, the YES team has been getting to know the teens of Ithaca by asking a single question to as many teens as possible. These questions have ranged from, “Have you ever had a job before?” to, “Do you think high school prepares you for the real world?” We use the data we collect to create blog posts (like what you’re reading right now!) that offer work-related tips, and we post the results on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter every two weeks. In case you’ve stumbled upon this article outside of our blog, please check it out by visiting http://yesithaca.org/blog.
Snapchat Under Construction
We did it. We got a Snapchat. So far we haven’t done anything awesome with it, but the goal is to come up with some solid snaps and stories for all who follow to see. One way we hope to use Snapchat this year is by adding up to date, teen-friendly job postings as we find out about them. To watch our Snapchat awesomeness unfold, add us -- yes14850.
Does social media have a positive impact on us and the world around us? Who knows, but at least we, here at YES, are trying our hardest to make the World Wide Web a slightly better place. Don’t forget to add, follow, and subscribe!
It’s the first week of January. Our planet begins a new revolution around the Sun. Everyone is coming down off a massive sugar high brought on by the holidays. We struggle to replace the ‘16 with a ‘17 at the end of every date we write. We think about New Year’s Resolutions and whether they’re worth it or not.
For many people, a new calendar year is the perfect time to make a lasting change in their life. According to Sarah Pruitt of the History Channel, the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions dates back 4,000 years to ancient Babylon and a 12 day long festival in which they welcomed the new year, re-pledged allegiance to their king, promised to repay all of their debts, and returned anything they had borrowed over the past year.
In 2017, the Statistic Brain Research Institute estimates that 41% of Americans typically make some kind of New Year’s Resolution, and Ithaca’s teens aren’t too far removed from that estimate. Based on a survey of 380 Ithaca teens, YES found that 43% had made a New Year’s Resolution. These resolutions were, for the most part, about making changes to improve their health and wellness, doing better in school, spending time with their friends, investing more time in a hobby or extracurricular activity, saving money, and working up the courage to ask someone special out on a date. For the other 57%, making a resolution didn’t seem worth it because they knew they would never follow through or it’s just not a convenient time to try to make any kind of changes in their life.
Making a resolution seems simple. I resolve to get more sleep. I resolve to stop biting my fingernails. I resolve to… fill in the blank. It’s easy to see the things in life that you want to change. The tough part is making a change that lasts. In fact, the Statistic Brain Research Institute reports less than 10% of people are successful in achieving their New Year’s Resolutions.
Many people don’t care that their resolution won’t be reached, and some to the point of not even making one at all. But if you are resolved to achieve your resolution, try these three tips:
1. Be Specific
It’s tough to know if you’ve really met your resolution if you don’t have a specific end in mind. Someone whose resolution is to get more sleep will be less successful than someone who resolves to sleep at least 8 hours per night. When approaching your own personal resolution, avoid using words like “more,” “less,” “better,” etc. Instead of doing better in school, resolve to obtain a specific grade in a specific class. Rather than eating less junk food, resolve to eat only one dessert per week.
2. Have a Plan
Many people fail to achieve their resolutions because they don’t know how they will approach it. Someone who resolves to get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times per week has a specific resolution but if they stop at that, they will never succeed. They may start strong and exercise three days in a row, then lose motivation, and forget to exercise at all the following week. In addition to a resolution, they should also plan to exercise at a specific time of day on specific days of the week, such as every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as soon as the school day ends. Someone hoping to stop biting their fingernails might plan to chew a piece of gum instead, and someone who wants to sleep at least 8 hours per night should plan a specific bedtime to achieve their resolution.
3. Set Goals Along the Way
Another reason people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions is because they are ultimately too big, and the end result is too distant to be meaningful. For example, if someone resolves to get at least a B in Global Studies and plans to do so by studying every night for 20 minutes, they may become discouraged and give up when in the very first week because they only study once for 15 minutes. A better way to approach this resolution is by gradually increasing study time. They could begin by studying every day for just 5 minutes and gradually increase to 20. Alternately, they could start by studying for 20 minutes on just 1 night and then slowing increase the number of nights they study. Setting short term goals that contribute to your ultimate resolution is a far more gratifying way to achieve something big.
For a more in-depth look at ways to achieve your goals and complete your resolutions, check out the YES Guide to Starting Strong, and get all the resources you’ll need to succeed.
"New Year's Resolution Statistics." Statisticbrain.com. Statistic Brain Research Institute, 1 Jan. 2017. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.
Pruitt, Sarah. "The History of New Year's Resolutions." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 30 Dec. 2015. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.
Do you prefer to work independently or in a group? YES asked 370 Ithaca teens to respond. The results were split fairly evenly in three directions, with 31% preferring independent work, 34% preferring group work, and 35% claiming their preference depends upon the task at hand, their role in the group, and/or the members of the team. Teens who would rather work alone seem to enjoy the freedom of not worrying about other people and how much they contribute to a project. Those who like group work seem to thrive when they have help completing tasks that are too large for one person or when they don’t fully understand the subject.
At a glance, working independently and working as a member of group appear to be mutually exclusive activities. In reality, a team is only as successful as its individual members and the independent work each person can contribute. In the 1964 holiday classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Hermey and Rudolph humorously reveal an important truth about the importance of being independent together:
Hermey: I don’t need anybody. I’m… I’m independent.
Rudolph: Yeah? Me too. I’m whatever you said… Independent.
Hermey: Hey, whad’ya say we both be independent together?
Rudolph: You wouldn’t mind my red nose?
Hermey: Not if you don’t mind me being a dentist.
Rudolph: It’s a deal.
This conversation seems contradictory. Independence implies going at it alone and being without other people, yet these two ironically decide to be “independent together.” The scene is meant to be an amusing start to a budding friendship, but there is a deeper truth to be gleaned from these friends about how to successfully work independently as a part of a group.
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Before deciding to form a group, Rudolph and Hermey discuss their strengths and weaknesses. For both, being independent is an important strength that sets them apart from their peers and gives them the courage to face the North Pole and the Abominable Snow Monster alone.
They then reveal personal characteristics that have made working with others challenging for them in the past. For Rudolph, the fact that his nose glows bright red has always been a problem that other reindeer just can’t get past. They won’t let him participate in reindeer games, and even Santa believes he’ll never be on his sleigh team. Hermey’s desire to be a dentist rather than an elf has made it impossible for him to work as a part of the toy-building team or even participate in the elf choir. After sharing their weaknesses, it’s obvious that neither Rudolph nor Hermey is bothered by the other’s perceived weaknesses.
Once each member of a group knows some important details about the other members, they can agree to use their individual strengths and weaknesses to best serve the team as a whole. For example, Rudolph would never ask Hermey to build a toy, but he might ask him to fix his teeth. In a work group, you’d never ask someone whose weakness is delegating tasks to be the group leader, but you might give them a specific set of assignments that only they need to feel responsible for.
Know the Group Goals
For Rudolph and Hermey, the unspoken group goal is surviving the dangerous elements of the North Pole. They rely on each other to watch out for the Abominable Snow Monster and to navigate the cold and windy landscape. Knowing that their group goal is survival allows Hermey and Rudolph to act independently, using their own personal strengths, in order to meet that goal. Rudolph’s nose can help guide the way through dark and blustery nights. Hermey’s dentistry comes in handy when they defeat the Abominable by removing all of his teeth.
At work, your team is unlikely to set a goal like surviving under harsh conditions, but it is just as important that every member of the group knows and agrees upon the purpose of your work. At a restaurant, for example, the goal of every employee, from line cook, to dishwasher, to waitstaff is to ensure that the customers have an excellent experience while dining at the restaurant. The waitstaff must be kind and attentive. The cooks must follow recipes and work quickly. The dishwashers must make sure the dishes are cleaned between each use. If any member of the team fails to perform their job, the goal will not be met, and the customer will not receive excellent service.
By knowing how to individually use their strengths and weaknesses to reach their group goal, Hermey and Rudolph are a successful team. The best teams are those that are full of people who are comfortable working independently and using their strengths to achieve a common purpose. Next time you’re working in a group, remember Rudolph and Hermey’s success when they decided to be independent together.
If you’re Superman, your greatest strengths are your x-ray vision, your proficiency in flying, your superhuman muscles, and your ability to pull off a pair of nerdy glasses when you’re not saving the world. If you’re Superman, it’s easy to know your strengths; if you’re a teenager, not so much.
This week, YES asked 320 Ithaca teens to talk about their greatest strengths. A few teens said they are good at problem solving, leadership, teamwork, and time management, but many of the answers we got were highly specific to each individual. One teen told us his greatest strength is knot-tying, and another told us her’s is her “god-like charm.” Not surprisingly, 10% have no idea what their strengths are. Another 10% referenced school subjects -- math, writing, history, science. Seventeen percent of teens reported interpersonal skills, such as being good with people, being good at talking and listening, or having a good sense of humor. About 8% said their athletic ability is their greatest strength, and 6% cited their involvement in the arts, such as music, drawing, and photography.
Highly individualized strengths like photography and skiing are excellent skills to have in very specific situations, but even slightly broader strengths have their limitations. If your greatest strength is knot-tying, for example, you will find great success in fishing, rock climbing, and docking boats, but you’ll rarely use this strength as a part-time cashier at Wegmans. If your greatest strength is math, you may one day have a career in engineering, architecture, and statistics, but your math skills probably won’t help you at your summer job as a camp counselor.
Developing the strengths you’re passionate about is important, but for most jobs, you’ll need a solid set of transferable skills that you can use in any situation. You probably already possess many of these skills, and they may even be related to strengths that you can easily identify. Let's focus on just three strenghts you use every day...
For those people who see their interpersonal skills as their greatest strength, it may be obvious that communication skills are useful across the board, but communication skills go beyond speaking and listening. People who are excellent visual or performing artists communicate ideas and emotions through mediums of drawing, singing, playing, sculpting, etc. Athletes communicate with their teammates to encourage and strategize, and they also read the body language of opposing teams to predict what they will do next. In class, you use your communication skills to listen to what the teacher is saying, follow directions, and ask questions.
Communication is a strength that you will always need in every job you’ll ever have. From listening to your supervisor, to asking for help from your co-workers, to passing on information to a customer, your ability to understand and respond appropriately is key.
2. Working Independently
School is full of opportunities to practice working independently. From the time you enter kindergarten until you graduate from high school or college, your teachers will always assign tasks that are meant to be performed alone. Maintaining your focus, completing your work, and doing your best without asking for help every five minutes is an expectation set for every student.
No matter where you work, your job will always require some level of independence. Although your supervisors will train you and offer help when you first begin, they will quickly expect you to perform all functions of your job without them. If they wanted to do the work themselves, they wouldn’t have hired anyone else to join their company.
People who participate in a team sport or in a performing ensemble obviously practice teamwork on a regular basis. In class, teachers often assign group projects or expect students to contribute to class discussions. Even maintaining order in the cafeteria takes a group effort. Everyone understands that the goal is to get lunch and eat it, so they follow a set of unspoken group rules and take on responsibilities to ensure success. You wait your turn in line, sit down once you have your food, take responsibility for cleaning up after yourself, etc. This team effort results in success for the entire group. Everyone gets food. Everyone eats. The lunchroom is ready for the next group. It’s a basic form of teamwork, but it’s a place to start.
At work, you will likely be a member of a team all focused on the same task -- serving customers, constructing a building, or making a profit for your company. Just like at lunch, your team will follow a set of rules and each member will take on a certain amount of responsibility in order to successfully meet your goal.
While these strengths may not help you leap over tall buildings in a single bound or save the world from a criminal mastermind, you’ll still need them at every job for the rest of your life. Even Superman uses his abilities to communicate, work independently, and work as a part of a team for some aspects of his job. For more help discovering and developing your strengths, contact YES to find out when we’re offering our Know Your Strengths workshop. Until then, try this...
High school. It’s that time in our lives when hormones rage, homework abounds, and who you’ll dance with at the semi-formal could make or break your social life. But what’s the point of it all? Does your social status in high school really matter 10 years down the road? Will countless hours trying to understand calculus really make you a more productive member of society? Does high school prepare you for the real world?
In a recent survey of 300 Ithaca teens conducted by YES, 50% reported feeling like high school does not prepare them for life after graduation. Additionally, 35% reported uncertainty, saying they think it might, but they just can’t be sure. Their resounding complaints about high school were summed up by one teen who said, “What’s the point of being able to find the surface area of a triangle if I don’t know how to do taxes?”
Many teens were concerned about taxes and tax forms. More still cited their lack of knowledge about numerous other practical skills, including building good credit, taking out loans, balancing a checkbook, buying a house, getting insurance, opening a bank account, and even fixing a flat tire. One person expressed a fear of all the independence and responsibility that comes with adulthood. He said, “At school, you’re babied. Your teachers are always reminding you when the next homework assignment is due, and there are restrictions on where you can and can’t go in the school. This doesn’t even prepare you for college, where the professors don’t care if you do your work and you have freedom to do basically whatever you want.”
These teens raise some truly valid points. Wouldn’t it be nice if high schools taught about building good credit in place of the quadratic formula? Home buying instead of Hamlet? Taxes rather than the capital of Texas? Sure.
But that 15% of teens who feel like school is actually doing its job and preparing them for the future seem to agree with one respondent who bluntly stated, “I think people vastly overestimate the excitement of the real world.” To these teens, high school is the real world. It’s a step along the way that teaches you what you need for what comes next, which will teach you what you need for what’s after that, and so on.
From these teens, here are 5 Ways High School Prepares You for “The Real World.”
1. Meeting Deadlines
It is so unfair that your Math teacher scheduled a test on the same day your English project is due, and your Science teacher assigned three pages of homework! Unfair, sure, but realistic. When you graduate from high school, you’ll still be expected to meet deadlines, and many of them will overlap, like paying your electric bill, phone bill, and rent all on the same day, or finishing a project at work the same day as your family is supposed to come into town so you have to get things ready for them. Life is full of deadlines, and knowing how to balance them to complete tasks on time is an invaluable skill.
2. Critical Thinking
When was the French and Indian War fought? Where is Bangladesh? What is an ion? Chances are you don’t know, and that’s ok. School isn’t there to make sure you retain useless information. It’s meant to teach you how to think about the facts, discuss them intelligently, and draw your own conclusions. This is the heart of critical thinking, and you’ll use these skills when making important decisions, like where to live, what career suits you, and even who to vote for for president (too soon?). The more you use your critical thinking skills while you’re young, the easier it’ll be to use them as you get older.
Don’t you hate it when your teacher assigns another group project? There’s always that kid who just doesn’t pull their weight, and it’s so annoying to be graded on the work other people are doing. In the real world, you rarely get to choose who you work with or what task your team may be tackling. Your success as an employee may be based on how your team performs as a whole. Group projects may not be your favorite, but teamwork will always be a part of your life.
4. Attendance and Punctuality
There’s nothing worse than getting lunch detention for showing up late to school too many times. Oh wait. Yes there is -- getting fired from your job for skipping work or being late every day. Simply getting in the habit of attending school and being on time prepares you for the real world and the responsibilities you’ll have as an adult.
5. How to Learn
Homework. What is the point? It may seem redundant or difficult, but ultimately homework is there for you to practice learning on your own. School is where teachers give you the tools you’ll need, and homework is where you use those tools to uncover your own knowledge. High school may not teach you how to do your taxes or where to buy car insurance, but it does provide the tools you’ll need to learn to do those things on your own. When the time comes for you to do all of the things you never learned in high school, you at least have the skills to do the research, find the class, or at least watch a YouTube clip to help you learn it all on your own.
High school is full of homework and hormones and uncertainty. High school can’t give you all of the answers to life’s questions, nevertheless you will gain many skills that you can apply to life after you graduate. At YES, we understand that some things are best learned through experience. If you’re looking to gain some valuable life experience outside of high school and in the workforce, YES is here to help. Visit http://yesithaca.org for more information.