Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Finding a First Job as a Teen

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So you want a car, insurance, summer camp, college spending money, an expensive pair of shoes, new skis, a class ring, prom tickets, a ski trip, or one of a million other things that might not fit into your family's budget. What is a teen to do?

Sadly, for some teens, the answer is "get a job," which can feel like a seriously rude welcome to adulthood. It can also be scary and deflate a person's self-esteem. The thought of finding available jobs, making a resume, filling in applications, doing interviews, and getting no calls back, or worse, rejections, is a little daunting for most teens. These are not skills people are born with and it takes knowledge most teens do not have, so take a deep breath and ask your parents for a little guidance.

This time of year there are lots of temporary jobs available for the holidays, and there are always open jobs at retail and food stores that require little or no work experience. Do not start by thinking you will have a hard time getting a job - many employers actually like working with teens because they learn quick and can be trained to do most tasks. The important things are that you are neatly groomed, enthusiastic, and appear to have a good work ethic - which means you will be on time, not miss work, and be open to learning and helping whenever you can.

First, look in the paper and on-line for employment opportunities. Read through the types of jobs available and get a sense of what job you might fit well in. Are you organized, good with numbers or people, do you have a skill that someone needs? Those will be the jobs for you. Next, follow the instructions for applying on-line or submitting an application. If you have never worked, maybe you can list volunteer work and a reference outside your family, or a teacher who will say nice things about you. Ask a parent to help with the application and check your spelling.

Once they call you for an interview, be prepared to tell the person or people interviewing you:
  • Why you want the job (what skills you will get, or the chance to explore a potential career, not the expensive shoes you want).
  • What skills you have that will help you do a great job.
  • How much time you can work weekly or monthly.

Remember that teens have to be 14 to work, and child labor laws do not allow people under 18 to work at "hazardous" jobs and limit teens in the following ways:
  • If teens are 14-15 years old they can only work up to 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week during the school year, and have to be done working by 7 PM.
  • During summer, they can work up to 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and have to be done working by 9 PM.
  • If teens are 14-15 years old, they may not work before 7 AM.
Before you leave the interview, you could ask when you should hear about the outcome of the interview. After the interview, send an email or thank-you card for the interview and stating that you look forward to hearing from the person. If you do not hear by the deadline, call the person and ask if they have filled the job. Thank them again for the chance to have had an interview. If you are bold, ask them why they did not offer the job to you - you might learn something to help you get the next job.

OK - there are some hints. There are positive aspects to having work experience, too! Having worked in high school looks good on college applications, and helps you develop a resume for when you have to work.

Good luck!

Photo credit: garrette
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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