Teens & Employment Pt. II

When teens are eager for employment, there are things to consider before diving into the workforce. Depending on a child’s age and level of independence, parents may want to assist in the process of job hunting, applying, and interviewing without fully micromanaging the operation. Previously, we discussed the importance of matching part-time opportunities with your teen’s interests or hobbies, as well as how to plan for scheduling conflicts and juggling obligations. In addition, families will want to cover a few more bases before beginning the job hunt.


Teens need to know that they will start at the bottom

A first part-time job, as exciting as it may be, will likely not be glamorous. As logical as it may seem, teens need to be reminded of the fact that the “tasks” required of the part-time job won’t always be entertaining or equal to their level of skill. It is important that children understand that, with little to no experience in the workforce, no job, title, or task should be considered “below” them.


  • Prepare teens for the cold realization that their first job is probably going to be underwhelming—and a serious check to the ego. As a new-to-the-workforce, part-time employee, teens will be spending much of their time stuffing envelopes, restocking shelves, making photocopies, scooping animal cages, filling orders, clearing tables, washing dishes, etc. They must be prepared to go into the experience with a “whatever it takes” mindset.
  • Talk to them about appreciating the experience—it’s not about the menial tasks; it’s about the greater lessons that teens garner from these part-time jobs. By starting at the bottom, teens learn about the importance of everyone’s contributions. They also gain insight into what will be required of teamwork, reliability, cooperation, diligence, and people-pleasing.
  • The workplace is one arena where effort and hardwork will always be recognized. In school, children are evaluated on the outcome or result—they do not always achieve based on the amount of effort that they put into their studies; it’s the grade that is emphasized. However, at work, employers are familiar with the learning curve. They know that newbies are being thrown into a sink-or-swim scenario and are often supportive and understanding of errors when effort is apparent. Remind your teen that, like everything worth having, a job is not going to be easy. But with the trials and tribulations that come with the part-time job, they are also gaining life skills that will benefit them greatly as they enter young adulthood.


A boss or manager is not the same as a teacher or parent

Today’s teens have the luxury of second, third, and sometimes fourth chances. Many school districts, in an effort to give students additional opportunities to practice reflection and error analysis, require teachers to offer a certain number of reassessments, rewrites, or retakes to students. While these practices certainly boost grade point averages and self-esteem, they do not adequately prepare students for the real world, where one opportunity is often all that is given.


  • Unlike parents and teachers, employers are less likely to consider emotions, personal baggage, or careless errors as legitimate excuses for missteps. Their mentality is, “If you can’t do the job, I’ll find someone else who can.”  It may seem cold, especially to a teen who is used to getting multiple opportunities to succeed. However, teens need to understand that “one and done” is often the true expectation in the adult world.
  • Remind your teen that a boss’s stern demeanor, constructive criticism, or inflexible exterior is not personal—it’s just business. Their goal is to manage the team and do right by the company or organization. When the manager asks an employee to do something, it is not exactly a request. Talk to teens about how to take initiative, follow through on a commitment, and put forth their best effort.
  • Finally, it is important for teens to know that their job is their job. Teens should not rely on parents to call employers, set up interviews, call in favors, or make excuses for their tardiness or missed shifts. Just like a college professor would not entertain excuses from students’ parents, an employer is not going to make those exceptions either. Teenagers, when responsible enough to apply for and take a part-time position, must be responsible enough to handle their own working relationship with the employer.