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Hey, Atlanta high schoolers, here’s how to get a good-paying job

Jasmine Gholston was 17 when she started taking orders and dealing with customers at CamiCakes Cupcakes in Smyrna.

Five years later, she is a manager and has two 17-year-olds on her staff of eight.

She first applied because of her love for the black and white cupcake. Gholston was leaving an interview at Forever 21 when CamiCakes asked her if she wanted to chat, so she headed from one interview to another.

Her story is different from the time-honored high school traditions of dealing with mall customers or smelling like French fry grease.


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Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler speaks with a visitor in his downtown Atlanta office July 12, 2011. (Bita Honarvar/bhonarvar@ajc.com)

But it doesn’t have to be like that during high school and shortly after, Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He’s heard of teens going from bellhop to hotel manager. But for the impatient, he said he knows of some people a year or so out of high school or with their GED making $14 or $15 an hour in shipping or logistics.

Here are some more general tips from the state’s head of labor:

• Make sure your attitude is correct for the situation you’re walking into.

• “You’ve got to show up, dress appropriately ... be prepared to talk about what that company does and what you want to achieve with them.”

• Think about skills you could bring to law offices, medical practices, veterinary practices

• Consider the fields of construction, shipping/mailing, logistics and warehouse jobs because they might pay for your training

Butler said he knows it isn’t always easy: transportation can be a barrier, single parents may have to find and pay for childcare, you may not know what you want to do.


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“If you show them you’re excited about working for them, it’ll make them excited about hiring you,” he said.

That was Gholston’s whole plan. And that’s what she looks for when she’s hiring young workers.

“When you come into a cupcake shop, nobody wants to see a sad-looking face,” she said.

From April to July 2018, the number of workers aged 16 to 24 increased 2 million to 20.9 million overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Aug. 16.

Of that total number, the largest percentage of employed youth were in the leisure and hospitality industry, 26 percent — that includes food service. For the retail trade industry, that number is 18 percent.

John Helton, CEO of WorkSource Cobb — which finds employment and training for youth throughout Cobb County — said young workers can make their own jobs.

If you see the doctor’s office is slammed, consider what they need and pitch that the office manager, he said.

Many young workers take for granted their skills like word processing and website management, according to Helton. 

“The Six Flags and restaurants of the world are going to be the primary employer, but a youth is going to need to ... package themselves for a business that wouldn’t think about hiring a youth,” he said.


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If that doesn’t work, then do what many teenagers yell about wanting in sitcoms: Be the boss of yourself!

The gig economy has everything from walking dogs to cleaning houses.

When asked about how managers view such work experience, Helton said: “Employers are becoming more receptive to alternative types of employment, and you can take prime opportunity of that.”

As for what to charge, Helton suggests being realistic and doing research. He said to Google around or ask friends who work at fast-food joints about pay and then put your price a bit below that.

“This is probably a short-term proposition ... and you’re coming into it with less experience than anybody else,” he said.

Still: “Employees kind of have the upper hand in wages and pitching alternative work arrangements," he said. "And the youth are (no) exception to that.”


According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average young person holds about six jobs between 18 and 25. Here’s how you find one.

RESOURCES:

• Take a 30-question job assessment test

• Get tips on writing a resume

• Read an FAQ on getting a GED in Georgia

• Get hands-on training with an apprenticeship or read an FAQ about them

• Explore the Georgia labor department’s employment guide


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