As summer approaches and many members of our Greater Chattanooga youth community look forward to a break from school, we’ll be shifting our focus in Youth Success towards a new topic: Workforce Readiness. Many students will be preparing for the summer job search, and for some, it will be their very first. The job search and the jobs themselves can be intimidating, but they don’t need to be. There are many simple ways you can build your confidence and prepare to enter the workforce. Fortunately, Monique Berke (our VP of Community and Corporate Engagement and Marketing) has offered to share with us her top tips for workforce readiness. 

Monique has years of leadership experience in the workplace, including in consulting, human resources, financial services and business operations. She specializes in process and change management, as well as strategic planning. Before coming to United Way of Greater Chattanooga, she held leadership roles at CBL, Unum and the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, and even operated her own business! Needless to say, she’s our local expert on workforce readiness, so get ready to take notes.

Monique’s 10 Quick Tips for Workforce Readiness

  1. Consider a job in the food service or retail industry. Gaining experience in customer service early on will prove to be of immeasurable help throughout the rest of your career. 
  2. Conduct research on your prospective company and role before you apply for the job. This kind of preparation will help you steer clear of organizations that may be a bad fit for you.
  3. Spend time practicing – out loud – how you plan to answer basic interview questions. You want to know how the words sound coming out of your mouth. If you find yourself “tripping” over your words, find new ones that feel comfortable and authentic to you. 
  4. Always come to an interview prepared with your own questions to ask the interviewer. It demonstrates interest and is a clear indication of your research.
  5. Dressing appropriately and professionally is crucial – you want people listening to what you have to say rather than noticing your clothing. A quick google search will give you plenty of outfit ideas. And rather than rushing out to buy something new, consider borrowing clothing items from a friend or family member if possible. 
  6. Search online for examples of how to put together a basic resume. Include your volunteer and leadership experiences, in addition to any paid work experiences. Before you submit it, have a trusted friend or teacher proofread your resume for any spelling and grammar mistakes. 
  7. Send a handwritten thank you note after the interview – this will make you stand out from your peers. 
  8. Similarly, when you leave a job, be sure to send a thank you note and follow-up notes to your manager. It is important to stay connected so you can reach out to them as a reference in the future and build your network moving forward.
  9. When you are on the job, be sure to utilize your natural curiosity. If something seems like it may not be correct, trust your instincts and bring it to your manager’s attention.
  10. Be open to doing tasks that few others want to do, and then do those tasks well. You will be noticed for your work ethic and willingness to take on a challenge..

You belong in the room. 

And finally, Monique’s most important insight: when you are in a professional setting, whether an interview, meeting or just a day on the job, remember you belong in the room. You got to where you are because you are capable and earned your position, not by mistake. If you feel confused or unconfident, ask clarifying questions instead of hoping things will get clearer. Questions do not demonstrate a lack of ability or knowledge – they demonstrate a desire to understand and complete a task to the best of your ability. 

Bookmark this page or send it to a friend who is preparing for a job. Hold practice interviews with your peers and review each other’s resumes. Working together and supporting one another is one of the best ways to help improve workforce readiness for youth success. When our youth community is able to gain positive working experience early on, they are set up well for career success and financial stability later on – and healthy careers and stable finances are a crucial part of an individual’s ability to thrive. What we do together today determines how we LIVE UNITED tomorrow!