“Don’t cha think he should’ve taken off his shades, Mom?” My teen asked this question one evening about a young man that had come into his place of employment looking for a job. Apparently, even though this restaurant was not hiring, the manager still took the time out of a busy meal rush to interview him; and the boy failed to remove his sunglasses during that interview. I don’t think he intended to remain anonymous. I think his parents just failed to teach him how to look for a job. With the summer job-seeking period close at hand, perhaps we should look at a few ways we can help our teens find a summer job before the school bus arrives again in the fall.
1. Build a resume.
The time to start preparing for your child’s first summer job is years before he is ready. My oldest boy volunteered at the local library and a living history museum to gain work experience before his 15th birthday. In addition to this outside experience, my husband trained all of our boys on the care and use of power tools, as well as basic carpentry and woodworking skills. That way, when the time came for them to start looking they had a skill set to put down on an application. In fact, when our second son arrived at his first job with a local building contractor, he immediately upped his agreed-upon wage when he found out that he could use the needed tools without supervision.
2. Build a file.
To fill out a job application a teen must know, or have on their person, their social security number. They must know how to spell the names of their parents, street address and state abbreviations. (You would be surprised to know how many kids are challenged in this area.) They also need to accurately spell the names of their references and have their contact information available. Remind your child to secure permission from key adults in their life to use them as a reference before they begin their job search. Teacher, coach, or youth pastors are ideal candidates; but don’t forget the neighbor they have been mowing grass for for years. That neighbor can more readily attest to your child’s work ethic than the other adults mentioned.
I recommend practicing filling out applications at home before they go out. (You can find an assortment of sample forms online.) How often have you, as an adult, starting filling out a form on the wrong line? This is something that we take for granted because we’ve been doing it forever. And don’t be tempted to fill out the application for your child. The employer will figure that out and pass them over for the job.
3. Build a work ethic.
If your child struggles to get up each morning for school, don’t think that a summer job requiring them to be on site at 6 a.m. will teach them to get out of bed on time. It will only frustrate them, your household and their employer. Their young age does not excuse poor work habits. Poor work habits on that first job will write their reputation for a long time to come. And if you are responsible to deliver your child to work on time, and you do not, their reputation suffers, not yours. Following this scenario, if your child is a night owl encourage him to seek a night job. Help him to look for something that utilizes his strengths rather than challenges his weaknesses – especially for a first job.
4. Build a persona.
Let’s face it; some kids are just socially inept. When my third son applied for his current position, he told the manager he wanted to work at that restaurant to improve his people skills. He was hired because the manager saw a boy that was honest about his abilities. But he didn’t get as far as the interview without some practice.
Try role playing with your teen. Pretend to be the employer and ask them some challenging questions. Review body language and dress. Remind them to remove their sunglasses before they get out of their car, turn off their cell phone, smile often, and to look the interviewer in the eye when they speak. Help them to prepare questions in advance so that when the interviewer asks if they have any, they don’t look clueless.
5. Build a network.
Of my four older children, only one ever had to go job hunting. The others found their jobs by word-of-mouth. If you have a teen looking for a job, tell everyone you know. Remind them to tell everyone they know – especially adults.
Don’t be shy about asking business owners if they have work for your child. Our oldest son had a baseball coach that was a building contractor. One evening after the game my husband approached him, told the man what skills our son had, and asked if he had anything Drew could do for the summer. “Have him at my house at 5:30 Monday morning,” he said. “I’ll see what he can do.” Drew worked for that man for the following eight years and then took all that he learned to a management position with another company.
Our daughter found her job in a café through friends. They knew of her baking abilities and approached the café owner as soon as a position became available. It pays to have someone that knows you on the inside.
Someone told me recently that his son couldn’t find a job because the economy is so bad. There may be fewer jobs out there, but I believe that those prepared for the hunt will come out on top.
- Great Jobs for 15-Year Olds
- 16 Jobs for 16 Year-Olds
- The 18 Best Jobs for 18-Year Olds
- 20 Companies that Pay to Work From Home
What are your teen’s summer plans? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!