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Mom, I want to get a job!

Submitted by on June 1, 2012 – 6:00 pmOne Comment

 How to handle your teenager’s first job

by Diane O’Neil

When a teen, and the teen’s family, decide it’s time to for the teen to get her first job, the entire family is affected.

I started working when I was very young. I was only fifteen when I began working as a hostess in a restaurant. Working in the restaurant industry gave me many wonderful lessons in the art of customer service. The things I learned as a hostess have been beneficial throughout my entire career.

When your teen decides he’d like to start looking for a job, there are many factors to consider.

How will he find a Job? There are several typical teen jobs that instantly pop into our heads: Fast food, Movie theater, Grocery store.

Here in Texas, someone who is under the age of sixteen does not have many employment options. But, once a teen reaches that sixteen year milestone, many more possibilities become available. It’s important that your teen enjoy his first job, and that it’s something he would really like to do. If he thinks, “I’ll just apply at the grocery store, because that’s the only job I can get,” he probably won’t have a lot of fun on his first job.

Spend some time brainstorming with your teen – what are some of the things he loves to do? Swimming? Look into work as a lifeguard. Cooking? Maybe an entry-level position at a restaurant. If you put your heads together, you should be able to come up with some exciting ideas!

Your teen will probably need a little help from you when he first sets out to get a job. Take a little time to talk to him about filling out an application, and going through the interview process.

Location of the Job

This is important because the job may not be in walking distance of home. And, if your teen is fifteen or sixteen, it’s likely that he won’t be able to get to a job on his own. Think about who would be helping your teen get to his job – what if he needs to get there when Mom and Dad both have other commitments? You might want to focus on possibilities that are located within a certain radius of your home, so he could ride a bicycle to work in a pinch.

Other Commitments and Activities

When a teen starts thinking about getting his first job, he needs to consider how the job will affect the other commitments and activities in his life. Some kids are involved with sports, student government, or church, and they may not have room in their lives for a part-time job.

Or, your teen may think he has room in his schedule, but then his grades start slipping. This is when Mom and Dad might want to step in, and make an executive decision that school comes first. The teen might need to cut back his work hours, or quit the job completely.

“Many adults don’t realize how important it is to leave a job, ANY job, on good terms with the employer.”

What Do They Do With Their Paycheck?

Teaching your children about how to handle their money as soon as they start earning it is one of the most important gifts you can ever give them. The most important lesson to teach your newly employed teenager is how to budget his money, and how to spend less than he makes.

Many banks offer a “teen checking account” that allows your teen to have access to the money, but a parent will also have access to the account. I recommend that your teen also have a savings account.

Teach your teen how to budget – every time he receives a paycheck, allocate a certain amount of money to a category. For example, teenaged spending categories might include a few of these:

  • Gas for the Car
  • Eating Out
  • Clothes
  • Movies

And, don’t forget the most important category – SAVINGS! Make sure your teen always puts a certain percentage of the check into savings. It’s vital to start building that emergency fund!

What If They Want to Quit?

This is possibly the most important topic in this article. Many adults don’t realize how important it is to leave a job, ANY job, on good terms with the employer. I knew a woman who worked at Starbucks, and was ready to search for a new job. Instead of giving any kind of notice at all, she simply didn’t show up for work one day. I’ve heard of teenagers leaving a job in this fashion, but never an adult. Needless to say, no one should simply not show up for work.

Why? What’s wrong if a bridge is burned occasionally? Especially if you don’t plan to work in that business, for that particular supervisor ever again. First, you don’t know that. You might cross paths with that supervisor years down the road – if you just up and walked out on him, he will not forget you, I promise! If you leave a company without any kind of notice, you can count on never working for that company, or for your supervisor, for the rest of your career.

The right way to leave a job is to give two week’s notice to your direct supervisor. This notice MUST be in writing. It can be a very simple, professional letter, similar to this one:

Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to work with you during the past fourteen months. I have decided to leave such-and-such company, in order to focus more on my schoolwork. My last day of work will be June 26, 2011.

This short note will guarantee that your teen leaves the job on good terms. He might even end up with a letter of reference!

A part-time job can provide great experiences for your teenager that he will carry with him for his entire life. It’s a great way to get a taste of the working world, without all of the grown-up pressure!

Diane O’Neil is a writer and mom from Allen, TX. She is the creator of the Don’t Do What I Did! workshop, which teaches teens with divorced parents how to have successful relationships. For more information visit


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