Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin
To get a first job as a teenager can feel difficult and overwhelming simply because it isn’t something you have done before. As a mom with a houseful of teens, let me share the best things you can do to increase your chances of getting hired and become a valuable employee.
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Before you begin your job search, one of the best ways to prepare yourself is to have a mindset that will make you a valuable employee. Employers want young people to work for them who WANT to WORK. They are also looking for people who will show up consistently, communicate respectfully and care about the job…whether that is flipping burgers, pet sitting or working in customer service.
There will be parts of ANY job that you don’t like. Learning how to overcome those challenges and demonstrate your work ethic anyway will set you apart long term from other teens looking for jobs.
When our oldest was just 12 years old, I jokingly informed him that in our house there would be no teenagers. In our house, the next step up was being a “young adult.” Having never had a teenager before, I had a bit of anxiety. I mean, teens were supposed to be hard, disrespectful, rude and self-centered and I didn’t want any of that in my house.
However, we did want our kids to become responsible adults and we knew that if that was going to happen, we needed a plan for our teens to progressively step into more adult responsibilities.
Of course all of that is easier said than done. But getting a job was going to be one of the first things we wanted our young adults to do as soon as they could. Some of that was for practical reasons. With a houseful of kids and later teens, we wanted them to have the chance to practice financial responsibility while they still lived at home. We also wanted them to have income to buy extras or do fun things. As a family with one income, we knew our own income might limit their opportunities and we didn’t want that.
Our oldest son started mowing lawns when he was 14 years old. My mom’s family owned a mobile home park, and Ian would mow the lawns of the homes owned and maintained by the park. Around the same age, my daughter started working for a woman who had an in-home daycare. In both cases, the work was flexible and largely came about by word of mouth. Eventually, they would both decide they wanted something more consistent.
If you are a teen trying to figure out how to get a job, here are my best tips and steps.
Table of Contents
Steps and Tips to Get a Job as a Teenager
The steps outlined below can be done out of order. Many jobs for teens will not REQUIRE a resume. However, it can be a helpful exercise to go through the process of creating one so you have it started and can add future employment and experiences to it.
1. Think About Your Interests and Skills
Depending on your age, you may have more or less work options available to you. Young teens may have limited job options while older teens may have a lot of choices. Either way, think about what type of job you would enjoy and what skills you have that could be valuable in the workplace. Make a list of jobs you are interested in and the skills you have. This will help you narrow down your job search.
Note: It is perfectly acceptable for your goal in getting a job to be that you want to make money. You may not be able to find a job that perfectly fits your interests. It is perfectly normal to get a job just to make money. (My kids worked at McDonald’s…who really thinks that is their dream job??)
2. Prepare a resume
When you first begin thinking about and looking for work, you may not have any work experience you can put on a resume. Rest assured, most employers will not ask for a resume for an entry-level part-time job. However, taking the time to create one in Google Docs will be useful as it will help you see what skills you actually have that can benefit an employer.
Things to include on a resume:
- Education (High school education is fine)
- Extracurricular activities
- Leadership positions
- Volunteer Work
- Skills Relevant to the job
- Soft skills you have
3. Search for job Opportunities
As you start looking for jobs, it will usually be the easiest for you and your family if your job is in your local community. Our own kids worked at McDonalds partly because it is just 5 minutes from our house which made it easy for us to pick them up and drop them off until they had a license.
Places you can look for jobs:
- Help wanted signs
- Local newspaper
- Community Facebook groups
- Community Nextdoor groups
- Friends, family and neighbors
4. Use Your Connections
To get a job as a teenager, it is important to learn the concept of networking. Networking is using your existing contacts to help you gain new opportunities. Often your best job leads will come through friends, family and neighbors. If you are looking for a first job, a great way to find one is to reach out to people you know. As your parents to post on their personal social media accounts that you are looking for job leads. You can also join your local Facebook and Nextdoor groups and post what kind of work you are available to do. I see teens do this all the time when offering mowing, babysitting and pet sitting services.
5. Apply for jobs online and in person
Once you find job openings, it is a good idea to take action quickly. Employers want to fill positions, so if you find something that sounds remotely interesting, fill out an application or submit a resume and cover letter soon. that interest you, submit your resume and a well-written cover letter (if required) to the employers. Make sure to follow the application instructions provided and pay attention to any work permit or minimum age requirements.
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the BEST way to apply. The answer may be apply both online and in person. Some companies (like McDonalds) only accept online applications. Other places, like mom and pop businesses, still prefer paper applications.
Filling out applications will be easier if you snap a picture of the first application you fill out as almost all applications are the same. Using the info from the first application, you should be able to fill out more applications quickly.
6. Prepare for interview
If you are selected for an interview, take some time to prepare. Research the company and the position you applied for, practice common interview questions, and dress appropriately for the interview. Be confident, polite, and enthusiastic during the interview.
7. Dress Professionally or Business Casual for the Interview
As you prepare for your interview, consider the first impression you are making. Is your hair clean, trimmed and well-groomed. Are your hands and nails trimmed and clean. Are you wearing clean, casual clothes without rips or tears.
Be sure to show up a few minutes early to the interview which demonstrates good time management. During the interview, maintain eye contact and keep your phone tucked away. Give the interview your attention and demonstrate that you truly want this job. Employers want to hire people who WANT that job.
For entry level jobs, I encourage my teens to wear a pair of khaki pants and nice shirt (not a T-shirt).
8. Follow up after interviews
After each interview, send an email to the interviewer thanking them for the opportunitiy to interview. Of course, for some jobs, you won’t have that contact information.
But when possible, this simple gesture shows your professionalism and can leave a positive impression on the employer.
Another benefit of following up is that you will sometime catch an opportunity you would have missed.
After my oldest son applied to his first job, he waited 3 weeks to follow up after he didn’t hear back from the interview. As it turned out, they had called to offer him a job a few days after the interview, but left a message on our answering machine that we rarely checked. If he had called to follow up quickly, this mistake would have been caught. As it was, the job was gone by the time he called!
9. Obtain necessary work permits or certifications
Depending on your age and the type of job you are pursuing, you may need to get permits or certifications. Depending on your location and the type of job you’re pursuing, you may need to obtain certain permits or certifications. Where I live, teens usually need to get a work permit in order to get a normal job. In order to get a work permit, teens first have to get a work physical and have a physician sign off on the permit before filing it with the school. That requirement will vary depending on your area and age.
10. Be Persistent and Don’t Get Discouraged
Very rarely will you be hired by the first job you apply for. Finding a job can sometimes take time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive offers right away. As you look for jobs, be persistent and be open to different opportunities. As you search for a job, continue to learn new skills and develop yourself as a person. Often getting your first job is the hardest, but it will come!
Remember, getting a job as a teenager is not only about earning money but also about gaining valuable experience and developing essential skills for your future career.
11. Once You Have the Job…Own It
Most entry-level positions are not glamourous or especially well paying. However, the do offer some amazing opportunities if you choose to accept them. View these early jobs as building a foundation toward other opportunitiies that will come later. This will be one of the first places that you independently establish your reputation. Doing a great job at your first job will make it easy to move up or find a better job later.
While you are working, focus on what you are gaining…even if the job isn’t your favorite. Your job will be a place to learn communication skills and life skills. It will also be a way to learn to manage your free time as you balance work and the rest of life. Whether you are working for extra cash or saving toward college, hard work will lead to greater responsibility in the future.
12. You Will Get Out of a Job What You Put Into It
As my kids have gone off to get jobs, they have come home talking about different employees they have worked with. There are some who show up and work hard. But unfortunately, it is often more common in entry-level jobs to have workers who complain, no-show, or even walk out on the job. Over the years, my kids have worked with ALL kind of teens. Some have been working hard toward their college degrees while working for minimum wage. Others were simply working because they needed money. And in extreme cases there were those who were fired for stealing or even arrested for theft.
All of those individuals worked for the same fast food restaurant…but not all of them got the same benefits. As you consider your long-term goals, remember that it begins with how you handle your job (no matter how small) today.
13. Manage Your Time Well
If you are a high school student, a job will mean an opportunity to practice time management. Before you tell your new employer what you can work, look at your schedule carefully. It can be easy to overcommit and find yourself working too many hours. It is better to start off working less hours and then take on more hours as you manage your time well.
14. Start Building a Network at Each Job You Work In
Every job you get as a teenager will lend itself to future connections. You may work with someone as a teen that is the head of a big company down the road. That connection you made at 16 may be with a person you eventually do business with years later. All of life’s relationships build.
Teens can and should go ahead and set up a LinkedIn account now to add their current and future network to!
15. If the Job Does Not Go Well, Know How to Quit Correctly
Unfortunately there will be jobs that are not a good match for whatever reason. Maybe they are too stressful, have a bad boss or have hours that don’t work. If any of this is true, you may need to quit.
In general, my advice to my teens is this: If it is unsafe, you may quit right away…literally walk out the door. However, if its just a job they don’t like, I encourage my teens to give a 2 weeks notice. Whether or not they liked the job, someone gave them a chance. And that relationship deserves respect. As teens they have never handled the schedule before, but its very inconvenient when someone doesn’t show up for work. Sometimes an employer will
Job Ideas for Teens
- Landscaping, Yard Work or Lawn Mowing – customer service, financial management, problem solving
- Fast Food Restaurant – social skills (many automated conversations), conflict-resolution, working on a team
- Cleaning – attention to detail, customer service, caring about others
- Food Prep – attention to detail, working on a team, caring about others
- Hostess / Waitress – curiosity, positive attitude, attention to detail
- Tutor – caring about others, social skills, positive attitude,
- Library assistant – attention to detail, customer service
- Retail – social skills (many automated conversations), attention to detail, customer service, conflict resolution
- Babysitting (or childcare worker in daycare) – caring about others, working on a team, conflict resolution (kids & parents!), positive attitude
- Warehouse – attention to detail, working on a team
- Office Staff – attention to detail, customer service, phone skills
- Summer Camps – opportunity to teach, practice conflict resolution, encourage others who struggle socially
- Movie Theaters – opportunity to learn customer service skills
- Food Service – learn health and safety rules and an opportunity to learn customer service skills
- Amusement Park – these can be a great place to learn a variety of people and life skills as they often move employees to different tasks
- Dog Walking – this is a great job for someone who loves to be constantly moving.
- Pet Sitting – this is great for introverts or people who love animals.
- Get More Ideas Here!
Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!