Three employers give their top tips for young people looking for work

Ernest Cantillon of Electric Bar, Cork, with staff members. Picture: Des Barry

Michelle Murphy looks at the dos and don’ts for teenagers looking for work and chats to some well-known business owners to get their advice for the so-called Celtic Tiger Cub generation

The school holidays are upon us and many parents across the country will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place with the prospect of their little darlings either hanging around the streets or hanging around the house.

However, not all teenagers want to stay out late or sleep all day – some do aspire to find part-time work in order to earn some spare cash. Indeed, many parenting experts recommend older teenagers get a sense of what it’s like to actually go out and work for money.

This isn’t limited to just your average teen, mind – apparently even Brooklyn Beckham once worked weekends in a West London cafe at the insistence of his famous father.

Pat Lyons is an Executive Leadership & HR Consultant and Managing Director of Greater Heights Ltd. Whilst Pat is at pains to point out that many young people make excellent employees, he acknowledges that the excesses of the recent past has led to some young people expecting too much from their first job:

“Directly after the economic crash I think a lot of younger people had unrealistic expectations certainly on the salary front and also around things like terms and conditions and it’s probably fair to say that a lot of young people had built their expectations on the fact that getting a job had been so easy during the Celtic Tiger.

I think that created a latent expectation amongst some young people entering the jobs market with some thinking they were God’s gift to employers. That whole L’Oreal thing of ‘I’m Worth It’ seemed to dominate the workplace and I think that kind of filtered down even to younger people. That has declined somewhat and been replaced with more realistic expectations but it’s still there in some quarters.” So, what then, do prospective employers expect of their staff?

Ernest Cantillon, proprietor of Sober Lane and Electric Bar & Restaurant

“Where possible, we tend to hire staff aged twenty-one or over, for the simple reason that we try to hire full time staff and somebody looking for full time work is more likely to take the job seriously. We get people coming in to us saying they’ve got 6 weeks before they go on the J1 Visa and they want to make some money — we’ve all been there — but generally we don’t hire seasonal staff.

Working in a bar is obviously a more informal setting than working in an office and so you’d have different scenarios. I would recommend that a person new to a job be honest with the customers and tell them that’s it your first night, that you’re still learning the ropes – most people are very good about it and they’re more than happy to make allowances for you.

Knowing when to make small talk and when to leave someone alone is also important when working in a bar and that’s something you get the feel for after a while. Generally speaking, if people come in during the week for their lunch they won’t have much time for talking – they usually have just an hour for lunch and want to get fed and get in and out so maybe just a polite few words will suffice. A good tip if you see somebody coming in on their own is to offer them a newspaper.

I always say to my staff that everybody sells Guinness and Heineken and that ultimately what sets one establishment apart from the other is the staff — basically, we are in the personality business. If you have a good attitude and the right personality, especially for entry level jobs, then you are more than half ways there and the rest of it can be learned.

Liam Ryan of Ryan’s Supervalu

 Liam Ryan, owner of SuperValu in Togher, Cork, who reckons he gave a couple of thousand people their first jobs. Pictures: John Sheehan Photography and Darragh Kane
Liam Ryan, owner of SuperValu in Togher, Cork, who reckons he gave a couple of thousand people their first jobs. Pictures: John Sheehan Photography and Darragh Kane

“I’m used to hiring teenagers — not just for the summer but as part of our crew — we employ them on a part- time basis from the age of 17 onwards. I would reckon I gave maybe 2,000 people their first job in Cork!

Some teenagers are better than others. Attitude is what sets a person apart — whether or not they want to work — there’s a big difference between wanting to work or whether Mammy wants them to work! I give nobody a job on the basis of ‘Will you take my Johnny on — he’s finished up for the summer and he needs a few hours’ — it’s not a babysitting service we’re operating — we run a business! I’d know within a month whether or not they are able to work.

They have to learn the value of going to work and the value of being part of a team and understanding what other people do. If they can’t attend work for whatever reason they have to phone their supervisor with an explanation — actually, the young people that I have very rarely phone in sick.

Being able to make small talk is all part and parcel of the job — that’s very important in our business. What it does is it brings them from being children out into the public domain and it’s certainly part of the learning curve — learning how to deal with the public.

Tattoos are one thing — although very few of the people working for me have visible tattoos — but we have a zero tolerance policy for body piercings in all fresh food departments if you come in to work with a piercing it’s a case of ‘come back tomorrow’ and you’re docked an evening’s pay– they all know the rules.

Soizic (Suzy) Kiely, Les Gourmandises Restaurant

“I think it’s a great idea for teenagers to work — even if it’s just for a couple of hours a week. It’s an eye opener for them — it’s good for them to see that you have to get up in the morning; you have to be on time.

For us, if you want to apply for a job, don’t send it by email — it’s always best to call in person. Print out your CV, have a nice photo, that’s very important — if a woman is showing cleavage in the photo that’s a no-no.

Always ask for the manager, don’t just hand your CV in to the first person you meet. I know when you come into an establishment first it can be a bit scary but always have your CV in an envelope addressed to the manager. If you don’t know who the manager is, find out — phone ahead before calling in and ask who the manager is. Then, if the manager is not there you have your CV in an envelope with his/her name on it.

 Pat and Soizic Kiely pictured in the kitchen of Les Gourmandises. Pictures: John Sheehan Photography and Darragh Kane
Pat and Soizic Kiely pictured in the kitchen of Les Gourmandises. Pictures: John Sheehan Photography and Darragh Kane

Sometimes a teenager leaves a CV and you don’t see them again — go back for that job! Go back and ask for the manager again and don’t be afraid to do so if you are eager for the job — it’s very important.

If you are sick you need to phone — if a staff member texts me to say that they won’t be in I treat it as if I didn’t get the message. Young people seem to think texting is fine because they are so used to it now but for me as an employer, texting is for friends or family only.

Piercing and tattoos might seem intimidating to some people — you might think it looks good on you but other people might not agree. For us, a small piercing is fine but I don’t allow multiple piercings. A tattoo for some people is a thing of beauty, some people wear jewellery other people choose to wear tattoos — but for us, no”

So, there you have it — armed with a sunny disposition, a willingness to learn and a bit of good old-fashioned cop-on your teen could find themselves out from under your feet and heading off to a part-time job.


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