teen jobsSet Your Teen Up for Success with these Suggestions

Getting a first job can be an intimidating experience for a teen and his or her parent (who may be helping in the process). It can be positive if it goes smoothly, building self-esteem and independence through success. Sometimes, the job can seem more like an ordeal, but even that teaches valuable life lessons. Whether it’s a summer spent petsitting the neighbor’s dog or a future career path in sales, teen jobs are a valuable way to teach a young person responsibility. Here are a few strategies to help get started.

 Build on their talents

Sitting down and having a conversation with a teenager is an event in itself. Before a teen tries to look for a job, a parent can help narrow down the field of possibilities by having a conversation about what the teen would like. It helps to think about personality. If he is very social, a job in retail could be a good fit. If he is more introverted, think about a ticket taker at a movie theater, or a snack bar employee. Explore what his goals are for employment to help with motivation.

Talk to the guidance counselor

A visit to school guidance counselors can prepare a child in more than just one way. Often, this great resource has a list of available jobs that businesses have advertised to see if they have qualified students. Also, they are a great source for forms and information on requirements for employment. They know the rules from child labor laws to paperwork that you must show your supervisor.

That being said, have the right paperwork

There are laws specifically developed for children under the age of 18 planning to work. In some states, forms signed by the school or parent may be necessary. Besides the guidance counselor at school, the Department of Labor has all the information so a parent can know what is required. It is also good to have a resume. Even without work experience, a child can be involved in sports, volunteerism or may have achieved awards that can be inclded on a resume. In addition, employers will ask to make a copy of the teen's social security card and/or driver’s license. A parent may also spend a little time explaining that the teen will get a tax form to fill out, called a W-4. They can bring it back to the job after talking to their parents at home, getting help to fill it out.

Find a schedule that works

One of the best lessons that comes out of a teen employment experience is time management. Many kids have busy summer schedules between sports and academic commitments. Adding in work is a challenge. With careful planning, a job can teach kids how to prioritize as well as communicate their needs. It’s important to find a job that can work with a child, rather than add to their stress.

Make a good first impression

You’ve heard the expression, “dress for success?” It’s particularly true when a teen (or anyone!) is searching for a job. Dressing well projects respect for the employer, a trait that most are looking for when they hire for a position. Parents should talk about the importance of making eye contact and speaking with confidence. It helps to practice by hosting a mock job interview. Pay particular attention to how to introduce yourself to others politely and saying, “Thank You,” when the interview is over.

Apply for lots of jobs, not just one

You never know for what, exactly, an employer is looking. Even if a teen falls in love with the idea of working for a particular store or business, she should apply for many different jobs to make sure she has success in her job search. More opportunity increases the odds that she’ll find employment and a job that she will enjoy. Today, most job applications are online. Teens can look up favorite stores and fill out their forms online, following up in person to ask about a job.

Make sure the duties are clear

Nothing is more frustrating for an employer and the employee than to have a murky understanding of what is required. Encourage your teen to ask questions, several times if necessary, to fully get the scope of his or her job. An employer would much rather field a question that’s been asked several times than to have responsibilities left undone.

A teen’s first job is certainly a milestone. While following these strategies can help set a teen up to have a great entry into the working world, each is responsible for his or her own success. In some ways, that’s the best lesson that having a first job can teach - independence.

Jessica Farthing is a Savannah freelance writer and mom of three. She often looks at her children being almost grown and wonders how it happened so fast!