By Megan Venner
The key to finding a summer job when facing the extra challenge of a posting in the same year is starting early says Debi Genereux of the Comox Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC). Even if kids haven’t moved to the new base, they can start their job hunt now. Genereux recommends visiting their local MFRC first. Staff there can put kids in touch with employment coordinators in the new location to help them get an idea of what the job opportunities might be there.
Job searches can also be done online. Many of the fast food chains and grocery stores do much of their hiring online so much of the work can be done even before the move. “The key is not to wait,” says Genereux. “People who wait think ‘oh, I’m going to be posted in June and I’ll start when I get there.’ It’s a full-time job looking for work, so you really have to be aggressive in your job search.”
For military kids who may have been in the area for awhile but who just became eligible for work, their job hunt strategy may involve becoming familiar with military resources.
Ally Fiola started looking for work when she turned 16. She says, at first, all of her friends were busy writing resumes and hunting for jobs, but pretty soon they were all getting hired. Everyone, that is, but her.
“It’s a lot about who you know,” says Fiola. Now 18, she wonders if her father’s work as a Flight Engineer at 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia might have been part of the problem. “You get posted somewhere and you don’t know people. These people have known each other for almost all their lives.” Fiola’s family lives in Coldbrook, farther than most military families choose to live, so most of Fiola’s friends are not military.
“That’s a big problem for many military youth,” says Kristen Lawson, Employment and Education Coordinator at the Greenwood MFRC. “Kids have to make a name for them selves each time their parents are posted. Before I joined the military life, I stayed at the same job and went back every summer for six or seven years.”
Help is out there for military kids seeking to earn a little summer money. While the exact services will differ from base to base, resources like the MFRC offer resume writing workshops, one-on-one help and even jobs banks, something not available to many of their non-military friends.
In Greenwood, Lawson says she will often help students re-write their resume. She helps them show off skills they didn’t even know they had and highlight jobs they might not think qualify for a resume, such as babysitting, mowing lawns and volunteer work. “Just because they didn’t get paid doesn’t mean that they didn’t learn some fantastic skills from their volunteer opportunities.”
After establishing a good basic resume, Lawson says the next step is tailoring it to the job in question. She recommends seeking out the company’s website and looking at the job postings. Once kids know what the company is looking for, they can adapt the resume and cover letter to suit the job they are seeking.
Often MFRCs also offer job search assistance. In Greenwood, the MFRC includes placing students in a database where a centre employee can research local job listings and send them to appropriate candidates. The Trenton MFRC also offers a job service that matches job seekers with employers. In Comox, kids can sign up for a summer job workshop that, among other things, actually brings in interested employers to interview kids on the spot.
Genereux, Employment and Education Coordinator at the Comox MFRC, says a big part of her job is helping kids make connections in a new community. “I can meet with them individually to help them look at what their goals are, where they want to go,” says Genereux. “I can then identify local employers who are hiring for the kind of jobs the kids want.”
In fact she often includes her business card with the resume of the kids with whom she’s worked. Because she spends time getting to know local employers often that’s enough to keep the resume from going to the bottom of the pile.
What students are looking for, and the availability of work, varies from place to place. Each new posting means different challenges. The Esquimault MFRC says kids in the Victoria area have little trouble finding work but smaller places like Comox have been harder hit by the recession.
Ally Fiola’s solution has been to get a little closer to the military. She did find some work one summer at a local fast food restaurant but had trouble finding anything else. Now a first year music student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, she has decided to put her skills on the Alto Sax to good use in the Reserves. She’ll attend boot camp this summer and then have a guaranteed summer job throughout her university years with the Reserves Band.