How do your teenagers earn cash? If they aren’t already working, they could be missing out on valuable networking and improvement opportunities, says career coach Simon Bennet.
Whether you were handing out your resume from age 14-years-and-nine-months or were well into your teen years before you started working, most of us remember our first job. And, chances are, you still rely on a lot of the skills you learnt in that job, too.
“From time and money management to improving teamwork and communication skills, having a job from a young age provides a number of benefits,” says Simon Bennett, founder of Brisbane-based career coaching service, Glide Outplacement. “Research shows that kids who have worked during school and university tend to go into better and higher paying positions, and even get promoted quicker.”
When it comes to helping your teen get their first job, Simon says as long as it doesn’t affect their school work, it’s a case of the younger, the better. In fact, it’s more about ‘when’ they get their first job than ‘where’.
“Any job will provide you with some benefit, so you can’t really go wrong,” says Simon. “I often work with long-term unemployed youths who really struggle without any work experience – employers will look for professional experience, volunteering and extracurricular activities when they compare resumes, and there is certainly some selection bias. The goal is to differentiate yourself from everyone else.”
If your teen is committed to a sport or extracurricular activity, see if they can get professional experience there – a coaching, umpiring or performing role will likely fit better in their busy schedule than waiting tables at your local restaurant. Others may prefer jobs in delivery, distribution, retail or hospitality, which are all industries with a history of hiring young people.
“Whether you opt for these more ‘traditional’ roles, work freelance or manage to secure an admin job in the industry you want to end up in, it’s all about getting valuable experience to put on your resume,” says Simon. “Remind your teen that while their first job may not be overly exciting, it will give them a point of difference when applying for their dream job later on. If they’ve never worked, how does an employer know they have the skills they’re looking for?”
Once your teen has secured a job, there are a few ways they can make the most of it.
“Demonstrate enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, remembering that if things are done in a certain way, there’s probably a good reason for it,” says Simon. “On the flipside, if you believe you can do something in a more productive way, talk to someone about it. If it’s quiet, look for something to do – your extra effort will be noticed. And always look for opportunities to take on more responsibility.”
Job hunt not going to plan? Simon says it’s all about persistence and creativity.
“Look at your resume – if all you’ve ever done is go to school, talk about the extra-curricular activities that demonstrate the skills your potential employer is looking for,” says Simon. “Show up in person, resume in hand, and ask intelligent questions about the job to engage existing employees in conversation. If it doesn’t work, come back again and again.”
Target the less obvious places, or think about how you can make money off the skills you possess. It’s never been easier to start your own business.
“Above all, keep at it,” says Simon. “Finding a job can take time and luck, but the pay-off is absolutely worth it.”
Here’s what the haven team learned from their first jobs…
“My first job was at McDonald’s. I started as a 14 year old sweeping floors in the dining room and left when I was 22 and in store management. I learned everything from how to flip burgers, to cash handling and also vital people/staff management skills. I still live by their ‘Clean as you go’ motto, 20 years on! I bought my first car and first home with thanks to McDonalds. It was the best grounding and set me up for life.” – haven’s editor, Belinda
“My first job was at the local community centre as a school holiday camp leader. This meant entertaining kids on school holidays, day trips, outdoor activities, arts and crafts… I should have clued onto the fact that there are A LOT of school holiday weeks you need to entertain the kids for! But it taught me to have a positive attitude and set a good example, plus I just loved the kids – hello, future mother!” – haven’s owner/publisher, Keeley
“Don’t laugh but my first job was in the United Kingdom packing cucumbers in a greenhouse! It was a terrible job, stinking hot and dirty. The supervisor was a real horror and smelled so bad! I earned 75 pence an hour which was slave labour! We did have a lot of fun though, throwing cucumbers around and I definitely learned the meaning of hard work! To this day I still hate cucumbers and will never eat one!” – haven’s creative director, Emma
“While my first ‘real’ job was as a checkout chick at Red Rooster, I did my fair share of babysitting gigs before I was of legal working age. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, I gained a LOT of patience during those years, not to mention responsibility and courage – spend enough Saturday nights in strange houses by yourself at the ripe old age of 12, and you can take on the world!” – haven’s editorial assistant, Anastasia
“Babysitting was my first job, earning my own money and I love kids so it was a bonus that it taught me responsibility and independence. If we’re talking ‘real’ jobs though, mine was in a giftware shop working the cash register, merchandising and dusting. I developed so many retail and life skills that I still rely on today – not to mention a serious home decor obsession!” – haven’s digital coordinator, Bec