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Tips for Teens Finding A First Job

Updated on June 2, 2018
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As a trained journalist and mother of two teenagers, Marcelle writes to share her practical parenting knowledge.


Young people working or actively looking for work grows sharply between the months of April and July each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many teens in high school and college are in the job market during these months but also during the rest of the year. Other times of the year, such as just before the holidays, spikes job hiring for temporary or permanent positions. Employers are often looking for workers with experience so it will take some time, effort and some creativity to land your first job. Here are seven tips to help you navigate the job market for your first time.


#1 Create a Resume

This may seem like a pointless task, after all you likely do not have any actual work experience, or do you? Many teens today spend hours volunteering for school organizations and church, along with participating in other activities. Volunteering definitely counts as work experience. Did you assist participants signing up for an event or provide direction? Did you set up or clean up an event? Did you put in hours of physical labor, stocking a food pantry? Did you come up with an idea to make a task or event more efficient? Employers will want to know about these specific experiences that show your ability to work with others, assist others, provide solutions, and see a job through. Here are some suggestions for filling up your resume with "work" experience:

  • Volunteer experience
  • Babysitting
  • Pet sitting
  • Lawn care or snow removal jobs
  • School activities and clubs
  • School or club sports
  • GPA (if good)
  • Academic honors and awards
  • Leadership positions
  • Foreign language classes

Be specific about the responsibility you had if you did odd jobs or volunteered. Employers will be interested to see how you are able to balance volunteering and activities with school achievement.

Include two or three references from adults that know you well but not family members. Be sure to ask these individuals for their permission to be a reference. Following is a list of good potential references.

  • Coach
  • Teacher
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Someone you provided a service for such as babysitting



#2 Make a List of Potential Jobs

Think about where you would like to work and make a list. Be open-minded, as many businesses that you wouldn’t think of right away could be a good fit for you. Typically, businesses that hire teenagers are in a service related industry, such as retail or restaurant, but there are many other opportunities. If you have babysitting experience, for example, think about applying to work at a summer camp. If you are a strong swimmer, lifeguarding may be a good fit.


#3 Practice Job Interview Skills

Before you even submit applications, you should be prepared for a job interview. Generally, it’s important to be confident and positive but here are some specific tips to help you. Ask a parent or a friend to conduct a mock interview. This will make you fee more comfortable and confident when the real interview happens.

  • Know Your Resume
    You will certainly be asked questions about what you listed on your application and resume. Be prepared to discuss your experience and provide detailed examples of what you have done, for example a specific volunteer event.
  • Experience
    Think of experiences you have had or that you can imagine having. Since most jobs that teens apply for are in the service industry, you should think through scenarios interacting with customers and how you might handle a conflict presented to you. You might have resolved a problem or conflict while volunteering, while playing on a sports team or even a class group project.
  • Availability
    What day you will be able to start, and how many hours a week you expect to work?
  • Ask questions
    Ask about the business and what your specific job responsibilities would be. You want to make sure that it is a good fit for you, not just that you are a good fit for the employer. Ask about your wage, when you might expect a raise, and whether there are any benefits, such as product discounts.
  • Presentation
    Smile and be positive. You are selling your best self.


#4 Apply in Person

Many employers handle applications online but not all. Local, independently owned shops, will not likely have an online job website. A personal appearance makes an impression and in some cases might be expected. Inquire about a job opening when you are in the business and ask to speak with the manager or supervisor. It’s always a good idea to have a copy of your resume on hand and to be “interview ready” just in case.



#5 Follow Up

After you have submitted an application and a few days have passed, make a call or a personal appearance to inquire about your application. Don’t get discouraged if your application for a specific job is not successful. Remember that you have a full list of businesses at your disposal. Refer to this list and move to the next opportunity.


#6 Consider Becoming an Entrepreneur

If you just don’t find the right job fit for you working for someone else, consider being an entrepreneur and going into business for yourself. You can market your own services as a pet sitter, doing odd jobs, really just about anything that you have the skills to do. Come up with a business plan that lists what your service or services will be, pricing, and how you will let people know they can hire you. Make flyers to distribute throughout the neighborhood and talk to your neighbors and community.



Words of Wisdom for Teen Jobseekers

Even if you quickly find a job, you will likely experience rejection on your job hunt. The work of finding a job provides a good life experience in itself. It will better prepare you for when you are seeking out a future career and could provide you with some great stories when you are older. Ask your own parents about their first job and other jobs they may have had as teens. You will most certainly hear some great stories about their own experience.



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