Job Searching For the First Time

High school and post-secondary students searching for work for the first time might be feeling a growing sense of pressure. You might be wondering how to navigate all the different parts of job searching and what to prepare first.

First Things First

Are you eligible to work in Alberta?

To work in Canada, you must have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is a 9-digit number that is a unique identifier. If you don’t have one, then you can get one from Service Canada. As well, people who are 12 years of age and under require special permission to work. They must apply for a permit from the Director of Employment Standards of the Government of Alberta.

Those who are 13 and 14 years of age are able to work the following jobs without a permit:

  • To make deliveries of small goods for a retail store;
  • To deliver newspapers or flyers;
  • To be a clerk or messenger in an office or retail store;
  • Restaurant and food industry (host/hostess, cashier, dishwasher, bussing/cleaning tables, server/waiter, customer service, assembling food orders, sweeping/mopping).

Young people aged 13-14 cannot work during normal school hours. They cannot work before 6:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. They can only work 2 hours on school days and up to 8 hours when there is no school.

Young people aged 15 to 17 cannot work at the following places between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. under any circumstances:

  • A retail store that sells food, beverages, or other merchandise.
  • A retail store that sells gas, or petroleum products.
  • A motel, hotel, or inn.

Young people can work at the above-listed places from 9:00 p.m. to midnight if they work with or are in the continuous presence of an individual 18 years of age or older.

Young people can work at any place (other than those in the list above) between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. if:

  1. They have the written permission from a parent or guardian to work those hours and
  2. The young person is in the continuous presence of an individual 18 years of age or older.

Now that you know where you can and can’t work – let’s get you started on the job search journey!

The main three things to focus on are:
  1. Resume building and creation
    1.1. Preparing a cover letter
  2. Searching for and applying to jobs
  3. Preparing for the interview

Resume Building & Creation

There are plenty of resume templates out there to help you create a good resume. You can find some through Microsoft Office or through Canva. 

Once you pick a template you like, you will see key sections that you need to fill out with your information. This will likely include:

  • Your name and contact information. Consider creating a new professional email address for job searching – your first and last name is a good bet.
  • Your education. If you’re in a special program like Advanced Placement/AP or International Baccalaureate/IB, you should include that.
  • Your work experience. If it’s your first time, you won’t have any – but have no fear!

You can find more resume-building tips from the Government of Canada here.

You’ll want to showcase what skills and experience you do have, even if it’s not considered formal work experience. To do this, consider including the following information:

  • Volunteer experience (why not volunteer for Kickstand?).
  • Extra-curricular activities, like teams, clubs, and/or lessons.
  • Languages you understand and/or speak.
  • Skills you’ve developed through personal hobbies or projects.
    • Examples: blogging, photography, video editing, sewing or clothing alteration, drawing, etc.

You can also add a personal statement near the top of your resume. This shares what areas you’re interested in and what skills you’d like to develop.

  • For example, I’m interested in studying Psychology and I’d like to develop my interpersonal skills.

You can also go for something more specific to the type of job you’re applying for.

  • For example, I’m interested in the fashion industry, and I’d like to learn more about retail marketing by working at a clothing store or boutique.

Preparing a Cover Letter

Some employers ask you to submit a cover letter with your resume. This is an opportunity to detail your experience, show a personal side, and demonstrate why hiring you is a smart decision.

You can look up cover letter templates. Be sure to edit them and make them your own. Then, when a job that you want to apply to asks for a cover letter – you are ready. From that point, you can customize the letter for that specific employer.

Want some extra resume-building help? Our Employment Support Worker runs a free Resume Building virtual workshop! You can also book a free virtual 1:1 Employment Support appointment and ask any questions you might have about job hunting. 

Job Searching & Application Process

Before you look at job posting websites like Indeed or LinkedIn – ask yourself what kind of job you are looking for. This will help you do a more targeted search using keywords and filters. You will be able to focus your time and energy on applying for jobs that are right for you.

Things to Consider Before Starting Your Search

  • Location
    • Can you take transit or walk there?
    • Can your parent or caregiver drive you there?

  • Industry/Field
    • Do you want to work in the food industry? Fast food, coffee/beverages, or maybe a restaurant?
    • Retail? That could look like working at a clothing store, sports equipment store, grocery store, and more.
    • Education? There could be opportunities to work at your school or work as a tutor.
    • Do you want to work for your municipal government? Many young people work as a lifeguard or front desk person at recreation facilities. Some work as a counselor or mentor for youth programs.
    • Working in a health care setting is possible too. For example, some people work at hospitals or clinics like in food services, reception, or the gift shop.

  • Time Commitment
    • Do you want to work part-time or full-time? Part-time can be up to 30 hours a week. If you want to work less than 30 hours, consider this while looking at job listings.
    • What about casual employment? This may be better suited for those looking for more flexibility, wanting to work occasionally, and/or able to pick up shifts here and there.
    • Is there a certain time you are available? Do you prefer to work evenings and weekends or do you want to work during the day?

Once you know what kind of opportunity you’re looking for, here are some excellent places to start looking for jobs to apply to.

  • Job Banks
  • Word of Mouth / “Networking”
    • If you’re looking for a job – let people around you know! Maybe a family member, classmate, or friend knows of a place looking for someone just like you. Having references that can speak to your experiences and character can make it easier to get hired. Being recommended for a job by someone the employers know or trust can be a huge advantage.

  • School/Campus Career Centre
    • Many employers submit their jobs to school and campus career centres. They want to hire young people. Schools often actively building relationships with employers to help their students get job experience.

  • Employer’s Careers/Jobs Pages
    • Check the websites of brands, organizations, and local businesses you like. Most will have a “Careers” or “Jobs” page with available jobs.

  • Social Media
    • There are certain social media accounts that repost or share job opportunities in Alberta. You can also try #abjobs, #abcareers, or similar hashtags for your city. Many employers use those to specifically reach young people.

  • Job Fair / Career Fair
    • Job fairs, also commonly called career fairs or career events, bring together employers and potential employees. Job fairs can feature as few as one employer or involve multiple employers from a single industry or region. It’s your chance to ask employers about hiring priorities and current job openings. You can learn about the employer(s) and provide your resumé for potential job opportunities. Learn more about how to be successful at a job fair here.

Interview Preparation

Here are some tips on how to start.

  1. When an employer calls you to schedule an interview, find out as much as you can. You can ask if it will be an initial interview or a selection interview. You can also ask how many people will be interviewing you!

  2. You can look up common interview questions and prepare answers for them. Most interview questions ask you about your various experiences and how they relate to the job you are applying for. It’s important to not only review the questions but to review the job you are interviewing for. Think ahead about how it relates to your experiences.

  3. You should also know what types of questions interviewers are not allowed to ask. For example, they can’t ask about your age, racial origin, or sexual orientation.

  4. It’s important to dress for the part. It shows that you are prepared to be a professional in the workforce. Your best bet is usually “business casual.” This means a blazer, button-up shirt, and dress pants/dress skirt. If you don’t have the money or time to go shopping for interview clothes, try reaching out to a friend, parent/caregiver, or other trusted adult to help you prepare a good interview outfit. You can also try your local thrift store for more affordable finds!

  5. Finally, interviewers almost always ask you if you have any questions at the end. Prepare your questions too. This is a great way to show you have really thought about the company/organization’s mission plus the job position at hand.

The tough part’s over. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get the job – as you can see, this is just the start!

Want more tips on how to start the job search process? Check out these resources by the Government of Alberta.



Government of Alberta ALI Work Search Basics

Government of Alberta ALIS Getting the Most Out of Job Fairs

Government of Alberta Employment Standards Rules – Youth Employment Laws

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