How to Help Your Teen Get (and Keep) a Job

Over the years, I’ve joked about hoping my kids can live on their own someday, rather than hanging out in my basement forever. This may not seem like a lofty parenting goal, but it suggests that my kids will master the skills needed to be successful and happy grown ups.

It’s not too early to start teaching and encouraging your kids to develop the skills they’ll need to have a real job, no matter how old they are today! As your kids enter high school, they can start putting those skills to work in the real world.

Job Skills to Encourage

Dr. Claire McCarthy, senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing, identifies executive functioning skills as the key to success in life. Good neighbors, good partners and good workers can use these skills well to manage daily life and navigate challenges: planning, focus, self-control, awareness and flexibility. Of course we learn and practice these skills throughout our lives, but two time periods are particularly important: early childhood and adolescent/early adulthood.  You can learn more about executive function skills from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child or Conscious Discipline.

Employers who work with lots of young people echo the need for these executive function skills. My kid’s manager at Chick-Fil-A emphasizes that job specific skills are dependent on the industry, but soft skills are applicable in every workplace. He identifies work ethic, time management and being coachable as most important.

Once these skills are mostly in place, your kid is ready to look for a job. That task can seem pretty overwhelming to kids so here are a few ideas for finding the right part-time job. The good news is that most places are almost always hiring now.

Starting the Job Hunt

Most kids like the extra money that a job provides. Working provides several other benefits for teenagers. Having a job allows teens to be an active part of their community, find mentors and other adult encouragers and build their resume. 

First, talk with your child about how much time they can realistically dedicate to a job. For some families the job hunting process stops here. Kids are super busy and squeezing in one more activity is just too much. What hours make sense in their schedules?

Some families view school and extracurricular activities as their kid’s job. If this is the decision that’s right for your family, consider how you can give your child chances to practice executive function skills and build their network in other ways.

Next, think about transportation to and from work. Can your child drive? Is there a car available for her to use? If not, is there a family member or friend  who can provide transportation? What work places are close enough to walk or bike to?

Just like in the adult job world, networking can be a good way to figure out what job might be a good fit for your kid and family. Ask your friends and neighbors what they know about jobs for teens in your community. Steer clear of those employers that have a reputation for being inflexible with young workers.

Word of mouth is a good way to find jobs for teenagers. Search snagajob (an online marketplace for hourly workers) for jobs in your neighborhood available to teens. Remember first jobs are often not the most desirable. Your kid will likely be doing tasks that aren’t clean or glamorous. It’s all part of the first job experience.

The Parent’s Role

Now for the real talk, moms. Once kids find jobs, they are workers. They need to act like workers, responsible and respectful workers. They are responsible for advocating for themselves. Your kid will need your coaching as they learn how to do worker things like write emails and go to meetings. They’ll also need you to step back and let them learn and grow.

The truth is sometimes planning around your kid’s work schedule is inconvenient. But the bigger truth is the confidence and competence that kids learn from doing a job well is more than worth the trouble.

Beth is mom to a high school sophomore and a first year college student. After fourteen years as a professional writer and editor, she earned graduate degrees in counseling and play therapy. Now she exercises her creativity as a school counselor. Beth loves reading, especially mysteries.


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