A Teen's First Job: Parental Guidance Recommended

by Dobogai, Linda Friday, September 28, 2007
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When teens look for their first job, it’s a sign of growing independence. Many times parents interpret this as a cue to back off. While we all need to stumble a bit when learning to “walk the walk” of the workplace, a little parental guidance can help create a clearer and less bumpy path. The key is figuring out how to provide guidance without getting in the way.

Let’s look at where guidance would actually be helpful, if not essential. Safety is a parent’s number one concern for their children. Laws such as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) youth provisions were designed to protect young workers. However, violations do occasionally occur, and informed parents can prevent their children from being harmed. A little knowledge of child labor safety laws can bring peace of mind. Information can easily be found by visiting the Website of the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as state Department of Labor sites.

Another primary area often in need of guidance involves scheduling. The labor laws dictate the number of hours teens can work. However, for a young person with a job, homework, school activities, friends, and family events, balancing all of this presents a new challenge. What a great lesson in time management this can be – parental advice in planning and prioritizing can definitely help. This would also be a good time to give a basic planner as a congratulations gift recognizing the milestone of getting that first job.

And that first job offers lessons relating to responsibility and serving others; however even at this tender age, it can also provide an opportunity to explore career interests. Often a teen will seek a relatively easy and quick route to get a job. Fast-food restaurants are filled with teen workers, and these jobs provide good customer service training. But for teens that have already developed specialized career interests, a little more time, effort, and parental guidance could open up doors leading to satisfying career development. Here the parent can be instrumental in helping uncover potential employment resources. For a teen open to it, the parent could suggest spending some time on the Internet using “teen jobs” and their location as search terms. Some major job search websites also feature a category for teen openings. To improve chances for being considered for specific positions, the parent can offer assistance in helping the teen create an effective resume. It may seem like there’s not much to include at this point, but the resume can focus on courses taken in high school, extracurricular activities, community involvement, skills (to include computer competencies and strengths identified by teachers), and interests relating to targeted jobs.

Without pressing too heavily, parents can also pass on workplace success strategies. To avoid the impression of preaching, this can be done through using stories of personal lessons learned. Stories relating to the importance of getting to work on time, contributing as a team player, and treating customers/co-workers with courtesy are just a few possible topics.

Most importantly, parents need to keep the communication lines open. Teens can be moody and secretive as their sense of independence evolves. Showing interest without hovering encourages teens to seek out parental advice when problems arise.

With a little guidance, their first job will result in an experience with potential to teach some financial responsibility, give their professional growth a kick-start, and look great on a resume for college or their second job.