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De Parte del Maestro
By Josh Flores

Image is everything: Present yourself well
As the summer approaches, many of my students are attempting to find seasonal employment. I know that this is the time many young people are doing the same. While helping my students fill out applications I thought that this would be a perfect time to discuss the importance of what is perhaps the single most important determining factor of whether you get hired or not: Image

What is image?
When I refer to image, I am talking about how you are perceived by others. In most cases, the most important thing about your image is that you are comfortable with who and what you are. However, in the real world, it is not always that simple. 

Most employers know within the first twenty seconds after introduction, whether or not they plan to hire you.  So let’s think about that.  What can be analyzed in those short twenty seconds? 

Two things come to mind: appearance and speech.  In other words, how you look and how you speak.  It is important to understand that most employers have an image that they want to uphold for their company or in their workplace.  They can tell right away if you fit that image. 

With this in mind, it is important that you present yourself in the best way possible.  To reference an old adage ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’.  My hope is that I can arm you with some basic knowledge to insure that you make a strong and positive first impression.

Put your best foot forward.
There are three main areas that you should focus on in order to present yourself in the best light possible: appearance, speech, and mannerisms—how you look, how you speak, and how you act. 

First, let us address your appearance. The most important thing to know is that a person will form some sort of judgment of you as soon as they see you. This is human nature; it may not seem fair, especially in the workplace, but here is a reality check: life isn’t fair.

But there are things that you can do to maximize the chances that the first judgment passed on you is a positive one. 

One of the biggest things that you can avoid being judged on is body art.  I call it body art because I truly believe that is what it is, but it is important to keep in mind that many people to not share that sentiment.  I also want to note that I am not condoning that you go out and get a hundred tattoos or piercings.  In fact, I see more of my students that have them but I would encourage all young people to wait until you are at least legally allowed to get something on your own before doing so.

I am a realist and I know that regardless of what I say, many of you are still going to do what you are going to do; I am just encouraging you to be smart about it and make you aware of the possible repercussions for your actions. 

So my advice is if you are going to do something, then avoid areas that are visible when you are wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts or a dress.  This means the forearms, hands, ankles, calves, and especially the neck and face area.  I know, I know you want to express yourself and people shouldn’t judge you just because you have a tattoo or piercing, but they will.

Think about this for a minute.  You are not in the Allen Iverson, Lil Wayne, or any other celebrity.  And do you know the main difference between us and them?  They are millionaires!  That means that they are not really worried about making a good first impression in an interview. 

Now I know that working at a fast food place or grocery store may not be your dream job, but you have to start somewhere.  My first job was detailing cars at a car dealership.  I would do the dirty work and some older, more experienced guy would do everything else.  I was the lowest person on the proverbial totem pole, but you have to start somewhere and I was making money.

Dress for success
Regardless of what kind of job you are applying for, it is important to dress well.  Invest in a nice pair of slacks (males and females) and a business shirt, and for the guys add a tie.  Don’t forget the shoes!  Ladies, you don’t want to wear six inch heels to an interview; instead go with a flat closed toe. 

Guys, dress shoes will work fine, avoid the purple or red Stacey Adams.  Keep in mind that you can look like a million bucks without spending much.  I suggest going to a discount store like T.J. Maxx or a Burlington Coat Factory.  Just remember that this is an investment and you can use the outfit for more than one occasion. You will undoubtedly look sharp and have an extra amount of confidence knowing you look good going into your interview.

Another key, particularly for the guys, is being well groomed.  So get a haircut and shave; just make sure that you are looking sharp.  Nothing ruins a good outfit like being poorly groomed.

Real talk
When speaking to your potential employer remember two things: they are not your friend and you are not in the streets.  Use your manners and say things like ‘pleased to meet you Mr. or Mrs. Whoever’.  It may seem corny to you but if you are polite and well spoken then that can go a long way.  You might naturally be nervous but take your time when you are answering questions rather than saying things like ‘uh’ and ‘um’ every other word. 

It is key to remember that by speaking with class in an interview it doesn’t mean you are selling out or being soft—it simply shows you are able to adapt to your environment.  I tell my students all the time that how I speak in the classroom is much different then when I am with my boys, just like its different then when I am running a board meeting. 

You have to be a chameleon if you want to get ahead in life. 

Believe it or not many interviewers are often just as nervous as you are.  Just relax and avoid fidgeting or doing things like biting your fingernails.  This can be a big turn off to an employer, especially in the food industry.  Yuck! 

Be sure to give a firm hand shake when you meet the person interviewing you, whether it is a man or woman.  Don’t break their hand; just make sure it is a solid shake.  Be sure to practice ahead of time.  Lastly, make sure you make eye contact when you are shaking their hand and throughout the interview.  This displays confidence; again practice beforehand.  Always end the interview by saying something like ‘thank you for your time, I hope to hear from you soon’ and shake their hand again. 

Well I hope these tips will help you in your job hunt.  If you don’t get a job you aren’t alone; the economy is tough right now so jobs are scarce, but if you follow these things then you are increasing your chances.  If nothing else, buy a used lawn mower and a rake and become an entrepreneur.  ˇHasta la próxima vez!

I would love to hear from you about my column please send me feedback or let me know if there is something you would like me to write about.  You can e-mail me at [email protected]. ˇGracias por tu apoyo!






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