Help Your Teen Get a Summer Job
Do you remember your first job? If it was working as a dog walker for a neighbor or delivering newspapers at the crack of dawn, you undoubtedly learned a great deal about the world of work. Although it may not have helped you decide what you wanted to do with your life, it probably gave you a good idea of what you didn't want to make your life's work.
Now you're an adult with children of your own. So what do you do when your 15-year-old comes to you and says that he wants to find a job for the summer?
If your child is reasonably responsible (handles a few around-the-house chores and makes curfew on time), and doesn't seem to have any major difficulties dealing with authority figures, your teen would probably have little difficulty adjusting to the world of work, according to James Sanders, a former job counselor with the New York State Private Industry Counsel. Sanders, who helps find summer positions for 15- through 17-year-olds, says teens who work hard in school will probably also work hard for their employers.
"Usually, if they are good students, they'll be good workers," Sanders says. "Employers like that and may try to get them back the next summer or even get them to stay on throughout the school year."
Finding a Fit
Not everyone is going to be good at working in fast food. If your child is shy or works better alone than in groups, it might be a good idea to look for positions that don't force uncomfortable situations.
"It helps to try to find something that fits into things that the [child] likes to do," Sanders says. For example, if your child likes to read, check with your local library to see if they need assistance re-shelving books. If your daughter is curious about how things work or if your son loves animals, a job as a computer technician's helper or a veterinarian's assistant might be the perfect opportunity to learn more about a hobby. Encourage your child to look for work he finds interesting.
Where to Look
When 22-year-old Corey Allen of Newburgh, N.Y., decided he wanted to earn a little extra money the summer after he turned 15, he says he knew that taking orders at some hamburger joint was not for him. "Before I started looking, I talked to people I knew – my parents, my uncle, other relatives and friends – to see if they knew of any available positions," he says. Everyone he talked to was either in human services (his mother is a Head Start teacher, and both his uncle and a cousin were directing separate after-school programs for at-risk youth) or knew someone who was. "It helped me find out about available programs for teens and about positions that were about to open up," he says.
The Prep Talk
Although you may have done a fine job of raising your little one into an upstanding member of society, chances are you may still need to help prepare him a bit for dealing with a supervisor or head-on with Joe Consumer.
"Parents should sit down with their child and remind them that they will be working with other people," Sanders says. "A job is a lot of responsibility. Push the responsibility because it is no joke."
He suggests that parents try to ready their kids for what a boss will expect. "Employers look for kids that are very punctual and cordial," he says. "Also, they like people who can adjust to change. If they are used to working inside, they may be asked to work outside or take out the trash."
Sanders says it also helps to advise the child that people respond to how they are treated. "You get what you give," he says. "Once that child puts on the uniform, they represent the organization. They become a reflection of the company, so that's what people see."
Interviewing the Interviewer
Parents should also make every attempt to find out as much about their child's potential employer as possible.
"If parents ever have questions, we suggest [they] go with the child on an initial interview," Sanders says. "Talk to the employer and find out what your child will actually be doing."
And remember that if you or your child ever discover anything inappropriate happening on the job, don't hesitate to talk to a supervisor.