5 Tips to Help Your Teenager Find a Summer Job

I can still remember my first summer job. I was a cashier at a school supply store a few hours a week. As a competitive cheerleader and dancer, my summer consisted of training and workouts even though school was over, but I did manage about 10–15 hours a week to work. It might not have been the most exciting job, but I do remember the sense of pride I had because I was employed and earning my own money, meager as it was. I’m going to age myself here a bit but it was not a time when parents got involved in helping their kids secure employment. For better or worse, that has changed. A LOT. How do I know? I own restaurants and have about 150 employees. A few of them are teenagers and summer is when we get a lot of new applications for that age group. As a result, I am often asked by parents how best to help their children find and keep employment. So, here are my best practices for helping your kid get a gig.

Make Sure Your Teenager Wants the Job in the First Place

Seems self explanatory, yes? Not so much. I cannot begin to tell you how many times a parent has brought a potential applicant in for a job and answered every question asked in the interview while the child stands there awkwardly and silently-or sullenly. It is never a good idea to hire someone who isn’t interested in the job, even if a parent is pushing them to get hired. That is not to say that a teen cannot find some form of employment, it could just be a better fit to find a job somewhere else.What manager is going to want to schedule an employee who comes out of the gate disinterested? Remember that it is a job, not just a way for you to teach your child responsibility.

Let Your Teen Fill Out the Application Themselves, etc.

While this might seem redundant, it is a little different. I had a mother ask me one time the best advice I could give to help her child find employment and I told her if at all possible, stay in the car when the applicant (your kid!)comes inside to interview. She did not like that answer, because she was worried that her child would be intimidated and not do well. This is understandable, but it is not helpful when a mom or dad takes the application and fills it out or explains to the manager when the child can work and what their expectations for the job are. How this is different is that I have seen many times where a teen wanted the job but the parent unwittingly sabotaged their opportunity with their behavior. Take the opportunity to talk to your teen about the interview beforehand and help them prepare, but it is up to the applicant to do the actual talking. Managers realize when an applicant is new to job hunting and don’t count it against them.

Have a Plan for Consistent and Safe Transportation

Time for a little honesty-getting to and from work is one of the main reasons teens are often let go from employment. Yes, they can drive when they are 16 but many of them don’t have reliable transportation of their own, and unless the job is close to home, they cannot rely on a bike. When they are interviewed, they will more than likely be asked how they are getting to and from work, and it will go in their employment file just like other answers in the interview such as availability and experience level. Believe it or not, we see teens needing rides to and especially from work quite a bit. I grew up in the eighties, and it was common for parents to ask their child to ‘find a way home’. For many reasons, this does not work with a job. First of all, it is not the responsibility of other employees to find or give your child a ride. Also, it is not a safe option. Employees that work together might have friendships outside of work, but for teens it is never a good idea to send your child anywhere with an unknown person-even if that person is a fellow employee. That is common sense. Be aware from the get go that making sure consistent and safe transportation is part of the deal with a job.

Let Your Teen Navigate Their Job, Not You

Let’s face it. Its not easy watching your child step out on their own, especially if they struggle. However, trust me when I say that it is not helpful to them when a parent intervenes with their employment. Frankly, it isn’t intervention, but interference. If a teen misses work and doesn’t find someone to cover their shift, they could be written up and it shows as an infraction in their employment file. Or, if a teen employee goofs off at work or otherwise doesn’t perform their duties up to par, a manager will call them on it as if they were any employee at the business. This is the BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE ANY PARENT. Do not attempt to contact your child’s manager to discuss the situation, and most certainly don’t try to defend the behavior or be manipulative towards the manager in any way. It is NEVER a good idea. Yes, a job can be stressful and your teen might need to vent to you once in awhile and by all means be a sounding board. If they ask you to help, gently remind them that it is their job and don’t ever contact your teen’s job on their behalf without their knowledge! I’ve had many a mortified teen apologize when this happens. One of the best developments over the last few years are employee maintenance apps. Most businesses use them for scheduling, finding subs, giving important messages and staying connected with employees. In this tech driven world, teens have a much easier way to navigate their employment and communicate with the business they work for then we did in the past. Let them do so.

****Huge and Imperative Disclaimer. If a parent has any reason to believe that their teen is being bullied, threatened or harrassed at work please let management know immediately. This is not interference, this is for the safety and protection of your child. Do not let time go by wondering if you should make that call. HR needs the information quickly so that it can be investigated and handled appropriately and swiftly. If in doubt, find out who the HR contact is and call them if you aren’t comfortable speaking with the manager or owner.

Be a Patron of the Business

It warms my heart when I see the family of a teen employee come in to eat. Seeing your child in action is fulfilling and even if they don’t admit it, they want you there as their customer. It is one of the first ways a teen branches out from their immediate family, and they have cultivated a new part of their identity all on their own. Observing that as a parent is a special moment, don’t miss that!

These tips may seem self explanatory, but they are absolutely the ones that come to mind in the years I have hired teen employees. Take them to heart, and have your kid go get that gig!



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Deanna Pack Wooten

Deanna Pack Wooten

Mother-Entrepreneur-Wife-Animal lover. Student (again) pursuing a dream.