Helping your teen win his first job

March 24, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I'd run breathlessly up the stairs of the little brick church, careful not to catch my heels on the narrow wooden slats.

The service started at 9:30 a.m., but usually I'd stood in front of the mirror a couple moments too long spraying my bangs up high. I'd arrive with seconds to spare, or worse, late.

Other bosses might not have been so forgiving. But my "boss" was a small, notably gracious congregation. They were happy just to have someone there playing the piano.

Even though that someone was a flustered 13-year-old, fumbling with the hymnal and pounding out painfully nervous, sour chords. Sometimes I wouldn't hit my stride until the last chorus of the song. By then, I'd surely shattered any earthly hopes of a worshipful experience.

That was my first job. I earned $10 a week to play for a Wednesday night practice and a Sunday service. It wasn't a lot of money. But it put enough cash in my pocket to get a milkshake when I went out with my friends, or to buy a cool, tasty lip gloss at the drug store.

Maybe more importantly, though, were the intangibles I earned; for example, timeliness. Being on time has never come easily to me. But my frazzled nerves when I was late eventually became too much to bear.

Finally I figured some strategies to help me show up when required. To this day, my clocks at home are set at least 10 minutes fast, and my car clocks are two minutes fast. It works for me.

Part-time jobs teach young people invaluable skills in settings that often are reasonably tolerant of emerging maturity and learning curves. My boss could have canned me.

 And perhaps that would have taught me a harsh lesson. But while they abided me, my skills improved, my level of maturity progressed, and my work ethic developed.

These are things I want to see going on with my teens. Meanwhile, I want them to have some spending cash of their own, some money to contribute toward their many expenses, and some to put away toward future goals.

Whether it's detailing cars or stuffing subs, there are jobs out there for teens. Here are some things parents can do to support kids in the search.

 Help write up a simple resume. Include skills learned at home, at school and through volunteer experiences.

 Remind them that appearance matters. While your son doesn't need to wear a three-piece suit to pick up an application at the Tastee Freez, he should have combed hair, a clean shave and decent clothing.

 Review applications. Many employers only accept online applications which, even for the most basic of jobs, can be long and detailed. Check it over and see that the final product actually reaches its destination.

 Follow up. With online applications the way of the day, be sure to encourage your teen to physically go and speak to a manager after the online application has been filed. If your teen doesn't drive yet, take her there.

 Spread the word. Teens sometimes find jobs in unexpected places just by making friends, family and business connections aware that they want work. Maybe a local florist, farmer or photographer needs a little help in your child's area of interest.

 Finally, be a cheerleader. In today's market, some unemployed adults are accepting jobs that likely would be occupied by teens in a thriving economy. Encourage your teen to stick with the search.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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