Underemployment and unemployment are both terms people, especially freshly graduated high school and college students, are all too familiar with. The economy is slowly improving, but it is still a hard marketplace for people looking for work.

As companies are starting to hire again, it is essential that young people have the skills businesses are looking for. What skills will get them in the door and keep them there?

Developing technical skills is part of the key. Post-secondary education of some sort is important.

Beyond the technical school, community college or four-year university, youth need to gain experience in their area of interest. Successful work and internship experiences are essential.

Companies are no longer necessarily looking for a good student to train. They are looking for individuals who can work from the start.

Work experiences during education are important for developing resumes and applications. The student is building a reputation with individuals who will be able to give a reference or serve as a past-employer contact.

Everything a graduate can do to shine a little brighter than another is in his or her favor. Good attendance, being on time, and showing initiative are great items to be able to write on an application or have relayed in a reference letter.

Learning how to make a good first impression is another essential piece. The first impression is twofold: how you present yourself on paper and, then, in person.

Good writing skills are what will get you to the next step. A well-written cover letter and a solid straightforward resume or application are the first impression.

Misspelled words, writing in text abbreviations, incomplete sentences and sharing too much or too little information are all ways to stop a potential employer from being interested. A good proofreader can make the difference.

If a young person makes it to the next stage, the first impression and in-person communication skills are very important. Being late, looking sloppy or a poor handshake can end the interview in an employer's mind very quickly.

Having opportunities for your young person to practice interview skills is another way to prepare for the workplace.

4-H, scholarship programs and many other organizations incorporate an interview at some point in their youth development experience. For example, as I write this, 19 area teens are interviewing for Outstanding 4-Her Award.

As the youth are coming in, familiar themes are appearing. They are dressed in business or at least business-casual wear. Good eye contact, strong handshakes and a friendly smile are practiced as they introduce themselves.

Youth who search out opportunities to develop confident interview skills, making a good first impression, and writing skills will have an edge. In this market, nothing is guaranteed, but it is important youth learn the necessary skills to compete.

Turner is an extension educator, 4-H Youth development, for Ohio State University Extension Service. She can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at

Subscribe to The Courier.