10 tips for helping your teen find a job

Is it time for your teenagers to start earning their own spending money? Are they ready to start saving for college? Then the moment has come for them to enter the workforce and to begin learning the true value of hard work.

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  • Is it time for your teenagers to start earning their own spending money? Are they ready to start saving for college? Then the moment has come for them to enter the workforce and to begin learning the true value of hard work. Their first experiences in the job market and the real world may come as a shock, especially as they come to realize that bank accounts aren’t magic, endless money bags.

  • You can ease your teenagers’ transitions into the workforce by providing them with help and encouragement during their job search. Finding employment is often difficult, particularly for teens looking for their first jobs with no prior experience. Don’t let them get frustrated or give up. Here are 10 tips to help land them that first job.

  • List their skills and experiences

  • Even if they don’t feel like they have any marketable skills, you’ll likely be able to come up with some activities they enjoy and are good at. Do they play the piano? Work well on a team? Enjoy playing with children? Any service activities they’ve participated in can count too.

  • List possible contacts

  • Most job applications have a section for recording character and job references and many businesses will actually call a reference or two to find out more about their applicants. Family members don’t count, of course, but some good options might be teachers the teens have had good relationships with, coaches, church leaders, parents of children they have tended.

  • Tell everyone you know

  • Many, if not most, successful applicants will find their jobs through a referral. Even if your teens aren’t sure what they want to do, have them spread the word among friends, neighbors, extended family members, teachers that they’re available and willing to work.

  • Use school resources

  • High schools often have guidance counselors who work specifically with teens looking for jobs. Utilize their valuable knowledge of what businesses hire teens, which ones work well with school schedules, and what skill sets are most important to emphasize on applications, resumes, and in job interviews.

  • Start a small business

  • And I mean very small — it doesn’t have to involve lots of merchandise or heavy overhead costs. By the time I was in high school, I’d been playing the piano for eight years and was sufficiently proficient to teach lessons to beginning piano students. After three years of teaching, I had 12 students and the final recital was attended by more than 50 people. Other options for teen businesses might include babysitting, pet grooming, dog walking, grocery shopping, lawn care, house cleaning, or landscape maintenance.

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  • Search online.

  • The Internet has tons of valuable job search resources. The trick is making sure that the jobs advertised are legitimate. Make sure when your teens fill out online applications that they don’t provide any personal information not directly related to the position for which they are applying.

  • Prepare for the interview

  • Your teens won’t automatically know how to act or what to say at a professional job interview. Go over some potential questions and answers with them. Help them choose something clean, professional, and modest to wear. Make sure they’re early to the interview and that they go prepared with a folder including their list of references, a resume (if they have one), and a copy of their job application.

  • Role play

  • Pretend you are the interviewer and your teen is applying for a job with you. Encourage the teen to make frequent eye contact, avoid fidgeting with or shuffling papers, and assume a poised and professional air in all of his or her answers. Sometimes all an employer is looking for is someone willing to learn who seems confident in his abilities.

  • Make follow up calls

  • After an interview, have your teen call back three or four days later. This shows the employer the teen is really interested in the job and willing to be persistent. The dialogue for this call might go something like, “Hi, this is (your teen’s name). I was just calling to check back with you on the status of my application.”

  • Don’t give up

  • And don’t let your teen give up either. It won’t necessarily be the first or even the fifth job application that gets accepted. Plan on your teen applying to at least 10 to 20 businesses during the course of her job search.

  • One of the most important things you can do for your teen, as a parent, is to be his cheerleader. Encourage him when he’s frustrated, edit his resume for him when he’s tired, and be ready to share in the celebration when all that hard work finally pays off.

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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