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Entering the Work Force: Preparing Your Teen for the First Job

June 30, 2014

teenworkIt’s that time when your teen has turned the legal age to get a job and he is actively searching for a part-time position to supplement his wallet. Before he starts putting in applications for a job, it’s important to prepare your teen for what the work force entails.

From managing a budget and dressing for an interview to setting realistic expectations, there are many things you can do to prepare your teen for success so the phrase “you’re hired” becomes a reality.

Set Expectations

When contemplating a new job, your teen may be so blinded by the prospect of a paycheck that he doesn’t consider the job environment, duties and co-workers. Stop him from only seeing green by setting realistic expectations.

Parents and nannies should sit down with their children and speak with them about what to expect from an after-school job, including relationships with co-workers and supervisors and balancing work with homework and school responsibilities, says Lauren Urban-Colacicco, New York-based psychotherapist. “When having this discussion, parents should be positive and provide as much praise as possible about their belief in their child’s abilities.”

It’s also important for parents and nannies to stress that the teen needs to take ownership of the job search and interview process. The experience of finding that first job teaches the child how to be in the workforce, says Urban-Colacicco. “From start to finish, it is a teaching moment,” she says. “Of course, parents should help when needed or asked for help, but teens are much more likely to follow through and learn the lessons parents want them to when they are the ones at the helm of the process.”

Encourage the Job Hunt

The teen should actively complete online searches for after-school jobs and retrieve and fill out job applications once he has decided on the type of job he desires. Your child may also need to put together a resume for some positions. It is crucial that your teen guides this process, says Urban-Colacicco. “Parents and nannies need to remember that it is the teen who will be working once they get hired, so they need to step back and be supportive, but not do the work for their child,” she says.

Although teens may be eager to get a job, it helps when parents and nannies offer subtle tips to ensure their success. For most children entering the workplace for the first time, the process will entail going to a business and asking for either work or an application. Your child may not know the importance of dressing for success, but this is a valuable tip you can offer, says Phil Voelker, Colorado-based father. “I remember when my oldest first told me he was off to go job hunting and he was wearing a shirt with a funny slogan on it, shorts and his rattiest pair of skateboarder shoes,” he says. “I asked him, ‘If you were hiring someone you don’t know, for a job they’ve never done, what would you imagine that he or she looks like?’”

Voelker’s son went back to his room and returned wearing a nice pair of jeans, a nice shirt, the good sneakers and a modern sweater. “It’s important that your child walks out the door prepared for a conversation about employment with any business he or she approaches, otherwise they’ll spend a lot of time just collecting pieces of paper to fill out,” says Voelker.

Actively Discuss Finances

As your teen establishes a work ethic, she will also need to learn how to budget money with a new job. Voelker recommends sharing your budget with your child so she can learn the responsibility of saving and spending money.

“The early job years are the right time to bring your child into an adult conversation about what things cost,” says Voelker. “Last year, my 17 year old asked me for twenty bucks to take his girlfriend out. I agreed, provided that he spend 15 minutes with me reviewing our cost of living each month.”

Instead of perceiving that money is “magically available” at all times, performing a cost and benefit analysis of finances with your teen often reveals that miscellaneous costs can add up quickly.

“It’s a real eye opener for them and helps them feel like they’re being engaged as grownups,” says Voelker.


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