First summer jobs: putting your teen to work

Written by katie thomason
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Help Teens Learn While They Earn

First summer jobs: putting your teen to work
Your child's summer job can help prepare him for adulthood. (Getty Images)

The world of work is unlike family, school and peers. To be successful requires a different skill set. A first job will introduce them to a broader world and help prepare them for the future.

— Renee Ward, founder of

Summer jobs open the doors to adulthood. But to pass through, teens will still need you to guide them. As teens make plans to work this summer, you should play a supporting role in finding the job, getting the job and managing the job.

Deciding to Work

Before the job hunt begins, you should find out whether your teen is really interested in getting a summer job.

“Not all teens want to work. Teens who are ‘pushed’ by their parents to get a job without really wanting one end up being bad employees and weaken opportunities for other self-motivated and ambitious teens,” said Renee Ward, founder of

Listen to your teen to find out what she wants to do. Discussing summer goals, types of work the teen can and will do, skills the teen wants to learn and the amount of money the teen wants to earn are all important considerations before starting the job hunt, said Jeff Allen, co-founder of

You should also encourage your teen to find a job that plays to her strengths.

“For example, if your teen likes to swim and is good at it, he or she could consider a job as a swim instructor or lifeguard at a water park, pool or recreational area,” Ward said.

Once the decision is made to start looking for a job, “the best thing a parent can do is take an active interest in their child’s job search and guide and mentor them through the entire process,” Allen said. “Make their job search an active topic of discussion and help them solve problems that come up in their search.”

Parents should begin by helping their teen put together a resume and filling out applications.

“Employers won’t expect to see much work experience from a teen, but a well-organised, typo-free resume that includes school activities, achievements and a thoughtful presentation will stand out,” Allen said. “Incomplete applications, illegible writing or bad grammar are large red flags for employers and will hurt your teen’s chances at landing a good job.”

Once your teen gets the interview, help him prepare. Teens must learn how to present themselves and know what to wear. They must use appropriate language and have good interview and follow-up skills, Ward said.

During the interview, teens should focus on what they can do.

“A summer job may not be the most glamorous job they will ever have, which is all the more reason to emphasise their willingness to step up to the plate happily and contribute,” said Heather Boyer, director of marketing for

Hiring managers seek out two characteristics in young people, Boyer said: a great attitude and a willingness to work.

“This is also an incredibly important building block step for applications to future positions – more experience will allow more opportunity to get future jobs,” she added.

First Job Search

Searching for a job is the same at any age. The Internet, newspapers, job boards, school career centres and the parents’ network of friends and associates are always the first stops to finding good leads.

“Even with seasonal jobs it can be about who you know," Allen said. "Go out on a limb for your teen and tap into your social network. Put the word out among your friends and co-workers that your teen is hard-working, ambitious and is looking for a particular type of job. Make sure that you do this with the cooperation of your teen and ensure that they are willing to meet with any possible employers you can introduce them to.”

Your teen's age factors into the types of jobs she can get and the number of hours she can work. Federal and state labour laws allow a maximum of 40 hours per week, or five eight-hour days, during the summer, Boyer said.

Although there are no federal work permits, some states do require a permit before a teen can get a job. The school counselling office will be the best place to find the necessary applications.

A teen’s age determines the type of job he or she can legally do. Teens under 14 cannot legally work except for in the entertainment industry or on a family-run business or farm, Allen said. However, a teen under 14 can do entrepreneurial work such as babysitting, gardening work for family friends or creating and selling a service or product, he added.

Teens 14 to 16 are often barred from operating heavy machinery or using knives.

“Employers will typically understand what teens of certain ages can and cannot do and will hire accordingly, but the laws are set up to protect teens, so it is always good to know what you shouldn’t be asked to do on the job,” Allen said.

Value of Money

Once your teen has landed a job, the conversation should shift to managing the new income.

The first step in money management is creating a budget based on the expected weekly income, Allen said. Then you and your teen should estimate taxes. Finally, make a plan for how your teen wants to spend and save the earnings.

The job might be a catalyst for setting up the teen’s first bank account, he said.

“Getting that first paycheck comes with an immediate sense of lavish possibilities, but learning how to appropriately manage money at an early age will serve teens well in the long run,” Boyer said.

One way to help budget is to have teens use part of their paycheck toward personal expenses such as the cost of a cell phone or gas, she added.

“The world of work is unlike family, school and peers,” Ward said. “To be successful requires a different skill set. A first job will introduce them to a broader world and help prepare them for the future.”

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