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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: Four steps for helping teens get a job

Lucy and George Ditto are about to begin the hunt for summer jobs.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Now that the weather is turning warmer and spring is in the air, I have one thing on my mind: It’s time for my teenagers to get a job.

Logan and I have mentioned this several times to our oldest daughter, Lucy, and, each time, she gives a nervous laugh and quickly changes the subject. Her little brother, George, isn’t much better.

“We’re serious, you guys,” we tell them. “You can either get a job somewhere for the summer, or you can work for us for free. And we are not going to be fun bosses,” we add.

A few weeks ago, I cornered my brother-in-law Kelly at a small family gathering. He owns a small business, a media company here in Spokane. He hosts a podcast, “Socks and Soul,” where he interviews local small-business owners.

Through his previous job, he got to know hundreds of business owners in the area. Needless to say, he understands business and what bosses are looking for in an employee.

“Can you please give my kids some guidance on the best way to search for a job?” I asked him as I polished off a piece of cake. Lucy was standing nearby, so Kelly turned to her.

“Do you want to find a job?” he asked her.

“My mom says I have to, so I guess,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders. Her motivation was inspiring.

“OK,” he continued. “Because if you do, what I’m about to tell you, I guarantee you’ll get a job in one day. But you have to want it. And you can’t be picky,” he added.

Both of us were all ears as Kelly recounted his tried-and-true battle plan:

Step 1: Look presentable. You don’t have to be in your Sunday best, but look professional.

Step 2: Pick the 15 businesses closest to your front door. Don’t waste time on businesses that will take a lot of time and gas money to get to.

Step 3: Walk into the business, look the first employee you see in the eye, and say the following: “I’m wondering if you can help me. I’d really like to work here. Who do I talk to about that?”

If the employee tells you to just apply online, thank them and then head to the next business. Don’t waste time applying online unless you have first gotten some face time with the person in charge of hiring.

Step 4: When you get in front of the person in charge of hiring, look him or her in the eye and say, “I’d really like to work here. I live close by, so if my car breaks down, or the weather is bad, or you need someone in a pinch, I can get here. I’ll be on time and work hard for you. I can start tomorrow.”

You can also add any relevant experience you have, like you’re a star student or the oldest of six kids, or you’ve managed your own Etsy shop for a year. A confident person (and a teenager at that!) who promises to show up and work hard – and then actually follows through – will be an intoxicating combination for pretty much any business owner, according to Kelly.

He notes as Exhibit A his 17-year-old son, Addison, who started a job search last year a few months before COVID-19 hit. On his first attempt, he ignored his father’s advice and tried his own way.

He drove miles from his home so he could apply at a restaurant where some of his friends worked. When he got an interview, the manager asked him to recount one of his greatest accomplishments. Addison thought hard and then said, “Last week, I learned how to do a kick flip on my skateboard.” He didn’t get the job.

A month later, he went job hunting again but this time decided to follow his dad’s advice. Within an hour, this boy with almost zero work experience, and whose biggest accomplishment of late was landing a trick on his skateboard, had a job.

“My dad knows what he’s talking about,” Addison said to Lucy as Kelly was finishing up his advice session. I’ll let you know how it goes. The job hunt starts next week.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at