Job-seekers make the ‘connection’
Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Supervisor Dennis Smitherman, middle, conducts a mock interview with two Hancock College students acting as applicants Tuesday afternoon at Hancock. The annual job fair was co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. //Mark Brown/Staff

Fill out an application, dress appropriately and know the job you’re applying for.

Sounds like a simple enough way to get hired, but local employers told a group of high school and college students packed into a Hancock College conference room Tuesday that it’s amazing how many young people blow off the process by showing up sloppy and unprepared. 

“Jobs are scarce, especially when summer comes around,” said Randy Wise, owner of Straw Hat Pizza. “First impressions are lasting impressions. You’ve got to get out there and sell yourself.”

Wise sat on a panel with other Santa Maria business leaders Tuesday for “Job Connection,” an annual job fair co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The free two-hour event gave youths ages 14 to 21 the chance to hear the do’s and don’t’s of job-seeking straight from the mouths of local employers.

Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Supervisor Dennis Smitherman said he mulls through summer lifeguard applications looking for complete, neatly-written answers to all questions. 

“We see hundreds and hundreds of applications that come through with misspellings,” Smitherman said, adding those applications are immediately thrown out.

Some students diligently jotted down notes, while others sat quietly listening to advice concerning resumes, cover letters, interviews and the research youths should do before applying for a position to set them apart.

Dan Pankratz, owner of One Way Board Shop, suggested students apply for jobs in the fall instead of the summer when youths are all looking but not a lot of people are hiring.

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Showing personality, passion and being honest were other tips offered.

Righetti High School teacher Karen McConnell brought a group of Regional Occupation Program students in her communication technology class to the event so they could hear about the ever-changing job market.

“They’re the ones hiring,” McConnell said. “Plus, me as an educator, I need to keep up with what employers are looking for.”

Salvador Martinez, a freshman at Santa Maria High School, said he heard about the event from his school and wanted to get some pointers, since he hopes to apply for his first job soon.

One of the most valuable tips, Salvador said, was that students should elaborate on their answers to employers’ questions.

“Everyone can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” he said. “I’m a little shy, so I have to work on that.”

Salvador said he will be attending the second “Job Connection” event May 24 because he wants to be prepared and take down more notes.

That event will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. May 24 in the Student Center on Hancock’s Santa Maria campus.