Jobs Q&A: Advice from an expert to help you on your job search

By Patricia Chavarria, Senior writer, 19
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Patricia says don't be picky when you're looking for your first job.

My job search has been hell. I’ve applied at nearly 20 places since December and none of them have hired me. Most said it was because I didn’t have experience, which was confusing and frustrating. How can people expect me to have experience if no one will give me a chance to work in the first place?

In December I was a senior in high school, and I wanted to save for college because my parents didn’t make enough money to create a college fund for me. They’ll help me, but I need to contribute too.

When I started the search I was willing to work any kind of job—fast food, as a cashier, in a stock room or even do janitorial work.

The first place I applied was AMC movie theaters. I heard that you could see movies for free, so this job seemed great. I applied online to work the concession stand, as an usher who helps people find their seats and for a janitor position. I wanted to work at least 20 hours a week but no more than 35, since I was still in school.

The online application asked for my name, address, whether I had a criminal history (I don’t), references, what hours I could work and questions like “What would you do if you saw an employee stealing?” After I submitted it, I saw a message that said they’d review my application and call me in two weeks if they had a position. I submitted my online application to six AMC theaters. I wrote down a phone number that I could call to check on my job status.

I waited and waited, but after three weeks I still hadn’t gotten a call. I never called them because I figured if they hadn’t called me, they didn’t have a job for me.

Then I applied at a movie theater near my house. While filling out the application I was tempted to lie and say that I had worked at my mom’s office, but I didn’t because I knew it was wrong and I thought I’d get caught. When I left my application with the manager, she said my lack of experience didn’t matter, because if I got the job someone would train me. She said she would review my application and if everything looked good she would call me for an interview. The manager made it sound like I had a good chance. I never got a call.

Patricia has been frustrated that she can’t get hired. Photo by Jennifer Gonzales-Romero, 17, South Gate HS

They said they weren’t hiring

I became so frustrated. I had applied at seven theaters and never even got an interview. I called the theater near my house to check if there was a problem with my application. The woman who answered said that they weren’t hiring; they were only accepting applications. I was angry because I had been waiting for a call that was never going to come.

I quit looking for a job in February so I could focus on school. Three months later when my big tests and projects were done I applied at Target. My brother’s girlfriend, Ana, worked there, so I asked her to recommend me. I felt like this would improve my chances. Two days later Ana told me that Target had tried to call me, but they couldn’t get a hold of me and they hired someone else. I was so angry that I swore loudly and slammed my fist on the table. I asked her to keep recommending me, which she did, but I never got called.

Next I tried the mall. The stores I wanted to work at, like Hot Topic, Macy’s and Old Navy, weren’t hiring. Since getting a job was so important I left my name and phone number anyway and asked them to call me if the store started hiring. Once again, no calls.

I even tried an employment agency

In June, my brother and his girlfriend told me about a place that tries to match you with a job that fits your skills, called an employment agency. We submitted online applications answering questions like what our skills were and what kind of job we wanted (typing, warehouse stocking, janitorial work). After I finished, a message on the screen said we would get a call for orientation in less than two weeks.

A few days later we were at orientation along with 15 other job seekers of all ages. A woman told us that the agency would try to provide us with jobs as long as we were hard workers. We watched a one-hour video on safety. I could see the boredom as people yawned and complained to one another. Even I almost fell asleep.

After the video we took a math test. As soon as I saw equations I knew I would fail because I’m not good at math. We weren’t supposed to use calculators, but almost everyone used the ones on their phones, because no one was watching. I copied off Ana’s paper. After we finished the lady said we would get a call from them once they found a job for us.

We all waited for a call but unfortunately we never got one. We called and they said that some papers got mixed up and they were unable to find our applications. The guy said that we could come back and apply again. I was furious. Two hours of orientation and they lose our applications! I was so upset that I decided not to go back.

Since everyone in my family had a job this summer, I made a deal with my mom. I baby-sat my little sister and she’ll pay for college when I start in the spring. In mid-September, I started collecting applications from grocery stores in my neighborhood and Build-A-Bear in the mall. I got some good advice from interviewing an employment expert, so I’m going to make sure I call back after I turn them in. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck this time.


Websites to help you find a job
You have to register for the site but it’s free and you can search job listings throughout the state.

First Break
Year-round jobs available to Los Angeles Unified School District high school students. Call (213) 241-0878 or go to

L.A. Youth
We have lots of links to websites with job listings at Click on “Get a job.”

LA Youth at Work
Job skills workshops and mock interviews. Go to for a list of free workshops.


Other stories by this writer:

My second chance at school. After ditching and a serious illness, an alternative high school got Patricia, 18, back on track to graduate. (October 2009)