There’s no replacement for on-the-job training, and there’s no better way for your teenager to gain specific skills than by working their first job. Whether babysitting, bussing tables, making lattes, or mowing lawns, employment offers some independence and a chance to prove how mature and responsible they can be.
A teen that isn’t interested in keeping track of homework or household chores may surprise you with a sudden burst of initiative when they see a paycheck on the horizon. With that being said, you shouldn’t assume that your teen will know how to behave in a professional setting. You’ll want to set them up for success by discussing some fundamentals before they start.
A great starting point is to share your early work experiences. Give them examples of failures and successes, and think about what you wish you would have known. Here’s how to prepare your teen for their first job.
Find the right fit and wait until they’re ready.
Teenagers ready to work have usually shown readiness through volunteer activities, household chores, or involvement in community or school clubs or organizations. Before job-hunting, teens should be able to communicate with adults, manage their time, and be prepared to follow basic multi-step instructions. Some jobs, like babysitting for neighbors and mowing lawns, are better suited as starter positions for teens who don’t have much experience. They also let teens try out certain kinds of work before committing.
Some businesses are more open than others regarding working with young people, so try to find a job that’s open to helping teens build necessary workplace skills. In addition to getting essential work permits from the labor or school departments, teens should consider how many hours they can balance realistically, safety concerns, and transportation. The current labor market has made it possible for teens to start in higher-wage jobs, with some job posting sites offering teens a place to look for entry-level positions.
You can help your teen write up a resume, listing their aptitudes and skills if they don’t have any work experience and role-play a job interview with them. Volunteering events can also allow you to explore different kinds of work with your children.
Tell your teen that chores should still be completed.
Assigning home chores can help teens build skills they’ll need for the workplace. The key is the responsibilities and duties being expected and routine. Suppose your teen doesn’t have to do their responsibilities or chores when they’re busy. In this case, it doesn’t help them learn the importance of fulfilling responsibilities despite other obligations or time management. Giving your child helpful feedback can also be beneficial. If the dishes aren’t clean, let them know and explain what they should do differently. This feedback helps them prepare for learning similar skills at a real job.
Establish timely behavior.
Teenagers might be accustomed to making loose plans with friends and should learn that it’s not “fashionably late” when reporting to a supervisor. It’s also not a minor violation of coming late to class. Remind them that others depend on their timely arrival and return from breaks to meet their obligations. For example, a mother can’t leave home for a meeting until the babysitter is there. A job requires sacrifices, meaning that sometimes you’ll have to miss events due to the responsibility of going to work.
Establish good phone etiquette.
Nothing is stronger than the bond between a teen and their phone. Giving your teen chances to practice putting their phone down can help them learn to hold off being online while at work. Getting caught texting by a supervisor isn’t the same as being caught hiding your phone under your desk in history class. Remind them to remove their headphones and turn off or silence their phone when they get to work.
Discuss an appropriate time for them to check their phone at their job. Do they get a break? If they’re babysitting, they should wait until the children are asleep and any cleanup is handled before they start scrolling. Taking videos or pictures of the workplace, coworkers, and any children they’re watching is likely off-limits and shouldn’t be posted on social media. Any feelings or thoughts about their job or the people they work with should also be kept offline. Complaining about a work-related situation online could spell disaster, especially if someone they work with sees it.
Let them know that questions are okay.
Teenagers should know they’ll have many questions on those first days on the job and should err on the side of asking for clarification instead of guessing what to do. Asking questions might not feel natural to shy teens or those likely to think they’re being worrisome, but it’s crucial initially, and employers will expect it.
A big part of job success is working with others, so talk your teen through different situations with peers in activities and at school and have them think about different ways to respond in similar situations. For example, you could ask them how they would react if someone had another way of doing things than them and share examples from your experience to get their mind going. Usually, underdeveloped communication skills or difficulty responding to feedback are the biggest hurdles for teens working in entry-level jobs.
Show initiative, but don’t overstep.
Let your teen know that showing enthusiasm for the job is good, but don’t start by coming up with your tasks or starting projects before getting a supervisor’s approval. Asking questions like “Should I put the laundry in the dryer?” or “Should I fill the salt shakers now?” are great ways to show initiative and respect for authority simultaneously.
Working their first job can be exciting for a teenager, but they’ll still need help from their parents. Helping them understand that working is different from any other aspect of their life can help them in the long run.