Last Updated on January 3, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin
Social skills for teens who want a job are important tools to navigate the work environment. These skills can make the difference between success and failure. They can make the difference between a job they love and one they want to quit. Social skills begin with the first contact with the employer. First impressions and interview tips can help teens get hired for a job they are excited to do.
My name is Sarah. I’m the mom of 9 kids and have walked through the process of my kids getting jobs over and over again. Six of my kids have jobs right now and most of them got their first job right around 14 years old. Not every job has been “successful” and there have been lots of learning opportunities along the way.
If you are a teen that wants a job (or you are a parent helping your teen find one), I want to share my best suggestions to help you be successful as you step confidently into adulthood.
Before we take a look at important skills for success, let’s look at WHY teens might want a job.
Table of Contents
Why Do Teens Get Jobs?
Teens get jobs for MANY reasons. But knowing WHY you are getting a job will help you understand the skills you need to be successful and make learning them a lot more relevant.
- Earn Money to Pay for Needs
- Earn Money to Pay for Wants
- Earn Money to Pay for College
- Learn Life Skills
- Gain Independence
- Meet New People
- Try New Things
When teens get a job…, especially a first job, it rarely goes perfectly smoothly. There is a learning curve to working for a person or business, showing up consistently, and doing a good job.
11 Interview Tips for Teens for a First Job Interview
Oftentimes, interviews are a teen’s first experience making a first impression on the adult world. When they are in school, to some degree, they are treated like children and sloppiness may be tolerated. It is helpful for teens to understand that while they may have been entitled to an education, they are not entitled to a job, and coming prepared will set them apart from other job applicants. If they want a job, they should expect to make an effort toward that end.
- Research The Company & Learn About Their Mission, Services, and History
- Make a good first impression -shower, clean clothes, tidy appearance.
- Dress Professionally or Business Casual. – My kids wore khakis and a polo to a McDonald’s interview.
- Practice Eye Contact
- Practice Your “About Me” type introduction.
- Know the answer to, “Why do you want to work here?”
- Be prepared to share things you like about the company and things you hope to learn.
- Bring a solid-colored folder, notebook paper, and a pen. Often interviews end with them receiving important papers. A folder will keep them organized.
- Be A Few Minutes Early or On Time for the Interview
- Leave phones off and put them away during the interview.
- Follow up after the interview with a note or email to say “thank you.”
16 Social Skills for Teens Who Want a Job?
Social skills for the workplace begin BEFORE a teen even applies to work for a job. That’s right…it’s not just about behavior, it is about having the right mindset towards working and valuing the employer, other workers, and the opportunity to work itself.
A teen who wants a job needs to think respectfully toward the person or company offering a job. THINK RESPECTFULLY. What does that even mean? That means a teen does not deserve a job. No one owes it to them. It is a privilege for someone to trust you with a job that represents their company. Even though a lot of entry-level jobs are dirty jobs, demonstrating respect for the business will bring long-term rewards for them personally.
No job is perfect and there are no perfect bosses. So, in a job situation, it is really important that teens know there will be bumps in the road and that learning to solve problems on the job is part of life. When they run into problems, their default response should be that this is a problem and it has a solution…and not to simply stress out and quit.
Every job has the opportunity to learn something new. Whether that is flipping burgers, cutting grass, cleaning, watching kids…or whatever…there is always something to learn that will help in the future. Even when the actual job is boring, the skill of curiosity will help teens stay engaged if they think about how their current job might help them in the future.
My kids have had a lot of customer service experience working at Starbucks and Mcdonald’s. As you can imagine, there are many unhappy customers. Learning how to calmly deal with unhappy people is a huge life skill that will serve them well for their entire lives. But in the moment…when things are heated…it can be hard to appreciate the learning that is happening. Curiosity will help teens think about their job from multiple perspectives.
When there is a problem on the job, a teen needs to know how to solve the problem. Parents can give them good tips for handling it…but teens have to be willing to talk to their boss if there is a problem. We actually role-play those conversations at home.
Problems Teens Have to Solve In the Workplace
- Personality conflict
- Not understanding the job
- Doing a job wrong and accepting correction
- Hurting someone’s feelings
- Learning to meet expectations
- Learning to give notice when calling off
- How to respond if there is a moral conflict..and they are asked to tolerate something wrong or illegal
Many people struggle with focus…either with ADHD or otherwise. If teens understand that the job is the first priority at work, they can do things to improve attentiveness. They can take notes, keep their phone off at work and develop a habit of asking follow-up questions when they receive instructions.
Being a good communicator means asking good questions, giving people advanced warnings if they will be gone, and talking to people about problems as they arise. Sometimes our fear of conflict means that we don’t say anything when a problem is small. The best way to say something is to simply ask a question to the boss. For example, “I’m still learning here…can you tell me if we are supposed to do _________________ in this situation?” The boss will explain the proper way. The teen can then say, “If someone is not doing that, how should it be handled.”
Teens do not need to be confrontational. They can become good communicators by simply asking good questions to solve problems.
Care About Others
When working for a person or company, it is important that teens care about others. When we care about others, we aren’t doing things just in our own interest. We show up to help people…do our best work and are aware that our actions affect our boss, the customers, and ourselves.
When we don’t care about others, it is easy to become selfish and entitled on the job.
Have A Positive Attitude
When you have a job, it is important to try and have a positive attitude. It’s hard for everyone to show up and work the full shift…but when someone shows up and only wants to complain, it makes the whole day move slower for everyone.
Time Management Skills
It’s important if you have a job that you show up for work on time and do your work in a timely manner. There are always distractions, but keeping phones off is a great start. If you will be late to work, make sure to let them know. Sometimes we can overthink time management, but it really is just about communication and prioritizing the job over things that are entertaining.
Tidy Physical Appearance
Many jobs will have a dress code or a uniform. A tidy physical appearance means coming to work showered and with clean clothes and deoderant. It also means making a small effort to keep hair combed. A tidy physical appearance doesn’t have to take long…but it does make an effort. Since my kids work in fast food, over the years they have come home talking about one employee or another that doesn’t bathe and that really stinks.
When my oldest was a manager, I remember having conversations with him as he tried to figure out how to tell someone that they needed to shower. That is not a conversation you want someone to have about you!
Be Aware of How Others Perceive You
As a person who struggled with social skills (and still does sometimes), I would say self-awareness is something many of us struggle with. We ALL have quirks. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Once you know what yours are, the best thing you can do is be honest about it so people know you know.
For example, if you know that you need people to repeat things, in conversations with new people…and on the job, you might say, “For whatever reason, I need people to repeat things more often when I’m learning something new. If I’m not doing something right, can you tell me a few times because I will eventually get it.” That lets people know that you know you have this tendency. And it gives them permission to say something without it being this weird awkward thing.
Be A Problem Solver
In every job, people have to solve problems. That might mean helping a customer whose order is incorrect. Or it might mean figuring out how to mow all the lawns when it has been raining for a week. A person who enjoys solving problems will enjoy working, because there are always things that come up.
Not only is problem-solving a great social skill, but it is also a great leadership skill too. Someone who solves problems will likely be promoted to higher positions faster than someone who waits around to be told what to do.
There can be a tendency among young people to quit when the job gets a little rough. If a teen is getting their first job….or they are further along and are getting a second or third, persistence…otherwise known as Grit….is important for success. Before they ever start the job, it is important that they decide how they will respond if someone is unhappy, moody, yells at them, etc. Will they simply quit…or will they push past that negative emotion, take a minute to cool off, and go back to work?
Quitting often brings temporary relief from job stress (or any other stress), but it can train our brain that the way to find stress relief is to quit. So decide before you start that you won’t walk out on the job if things get stressful.
When you do decide to leave a job, the best way to quit is still to give two weeks’ notice whenever possible.
Have A Moral Compass
When working for an employer, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the situation. Sometimes when people start working, they realize that it would be easier to take money from the cash register than work for hours to earn it honestly.
When you work for someone else, it is important that you value and respect them and their business. Not only is theft illegal, but it also steals something else from YOU. It takes your dignity and your pride. Of course, there are other ways to steal from an employer…wasting time, taking supplies, and mismanaging resources. When you get a job, show the best version of yourself.
Ask Good Questions
One of the best skills social skills for teens who want a job is the skill of asking good questions. Oftentimes, a business will have its employee training process, but when you ask good questions, you can truly understand the nuance around the way the business operates. When you ask respectfully, it demonstrates that you care. Of course, you can ask questions with an attitude as well….so the tone of voice matters.
Example questions might be:
- Why do we do it this way?
- Who should I talk to if I have a problem at my job?
- How do I do _____________?
What is the goal of doing it this way?
Learn from Failure
Something we can all benefit from is learning from failure. While no one really thinks failure is a social skill, we all know that being resilient leads to more opportunity. Whether you make a mistake on the job…or just have a terrible social interaction, you can choose to learn something every time something goes wrong so that you can have a different outcome next time. Learning from failure can also help you be more humble. Instead of saying, “It’s not my fault,” you say, “What can I learn from this and do differently.”
When people try to avoid the stigma of failure, they often miss out on the learning that came with that situation.
Approach Getting a Job Like It Is Your Job For More Success
Sometimes when people are thinking about getting a job, they do so half-heartedly. There is a lot of negative self-talk. “I doubt they will hire me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a job. What if I do a terrible job.”
Instead of that approach, apply for jobs intentionally. Research, apply, follow up, interview, and learn from each experience whether it ends up being your ideal job or not.
Getting a job has SO MANY benefits for teens and I highly encourage every teen who is able to look for one!
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!