Getting your first real job is an important passage into adulthood and everyone does it quite differently. Some teens get a job as soon as they are eligible to get one (age fourteen or fifteen in most of the United States – check with your school or town to be sure). Other teens already have a full schedule with homework, sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities and so decide not to get one until later or perhaps don’t want one to begin with.
Other teens don’t have permission from their parents and some young adults don’t decide to get their first real job until they have graduated from college.
While there are real advantages to getting a job sooner rather than later (experience and money being the top two), whenever you decide you are ready for one, there are basic steps you need to take to get one. First, figure out what you would like to do.
Check out the “help wanted” ads in your local newspaper or online classifieds and circle those jobs that sound interesting. Think about the businesses that are close to you and if the prospect of spending a few hours a day working there would be worth your time.
You can also talk to (or have your parents talk to) other adults you know such as at your church, mosque, synagogue, athletic team, scouts, clubs, or your parent’s workplace. Many adults are willing to offer a job to a teen who is a family friend.
Common places that teens first work are:
After school programs
And many other places – don’t sell yourself short: responsible teens are hired by many companies.
Make sure to consider your transportation options wherever you apply. If you don’t drive, make sure that you can use public transportation, walk or bike, or have someone willing to regularly drive you to and from work. Many teens have lost jobs only because they didn’t have reliable transportation.
Once you have found a few places you would like to work, get applications. Many businesses have online applications, but most have paper ones as well. You might even consider making up a resume for yourself. Even if you have never worked before, you can list volunteer work, community service, sports, clubs, church work, the small babysitting or yard work jobs you have done, chores you do around the house, and any other extracurricular work that shows that you are responsible, organized, creative, and hard-working.
You also will need references. These are other adults in your life who are willing to say that you would be a good person to hire. They can be coaches, teachers, youth leaders, or anyone else who knows you well enough to say what type of person you are.
When you are deciding who your references are, remember this: the more important they are (for example, the principal over a teacher or your pastor over a youth leader) the better the reference will look. It is also a courtesy to let them know that you listed them as a reference – or even ask them first.
Once you have turned in your application, wait a week or so and then call or pop in and check on it. Ask “where they are in the hiring process” and be light and friendly. You don’t want them to give you an answer right there, just let them know that you are still interested.
Then, within one to three weeks, you will be called in for an interview. Be sure to wear nice clothing, be on time or early, and don’t use slang or expletives. Be articulate, honest and polite. They want to know what type of person you are and you want to show them the best you can be.
Once you are hired, make sure you know what your pay rate is, what your schedule is (there are many laws around how many hours can work and when depending upon your age – your employer will let you know them), and what your duties are.
Then, you will sign a W-2 form which determines how much you will pay in taxes. As a teen, you are probably still a dependent on your parents’ taxes, so most likely you will claim 0 – ask your parents to be sure. And then you have your first real job! Congratulations!