Your Teenager and their first paid job

One of our roles as a parent is to help our children develop the necessary skills so that they can function well as an adult in today’s society. In raising children who are world changers, we are trying to become intentional in how our children learn these skills and what those skills are. We are also trying to be intentional with raising our children to impact the world for the better.

Part of helping our children develop skills in relation to job hunting (including the application and interview process) and managing work, study and a social lifestyle is helping them get experience in this area.

Many parents are not too keen on their children getting ‘part-time’ jobs as they believe it will take away from their schoolwork and social life. Kids are busy already. Yes. But they also lead a pretty easy lifestyle. They have room to watch television, sleep in of a weekend, use social media, daydream or play computer games whilst completing homework.

Research in the United States has shown that students who worked 10 hours per week achieved higher grades than those who didn’t. It also showed that working too much ie 15-20 hours per week had the opposite effect and they received poorer grades. You may well conclude from that that 10 hours of work crammed into an already ‘full’ schedule helps students organise their time and learn time management skills. More time working, though, can mean that work doesn’t complement study but competes against it. Research also shows that 15-20 hours part time work can influence negatively their amount of sleep. Enough sleep is crucial for the development of a teenager’s brain plus their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Work teaches you many other skills besides time management. Punctuality, reliability, grooming, responsibility, interpersonal communication, meeting expectations, following rules, having to complete tasks when you don’t feel like it, character building stuff, dealing with disgruntled customers, multitasking, using initiative, looking for jobs to help with eg cleaning. This all helps towards a young person’s resilience and confidence.

A negative for teenagers getting a part time job and earning money is the ‘freedom’ that money can suddenly give your teenager to buy things and go places they couldn’t buy and go beforehand. This needs to be addressed with your teenager and open lines of communication between you as parents and your teen about expectations, values and boundaries.

Suddenly having a disposable income can bring a whole lot of freedom and excess. This then becomes a very important season in helping your teen to manage their finances and savings. Budgeting skills learnt now (or beforehand) can save a lot of angst in the future. The value of money suddenly becomes very real when you realise that you just worked 15 hours for this season’s latest fashion accessory – the Kathmandu puffer jacket on special.

It can also be seen as an important ‘rite of passage’ that is often forgotten about or overlooked. Suddenly they are cast into this world where they need to fix problems and address issues on their own without their parents or teacher to step in.

Our eldest child at 15 has just landed her first ‘real’ paid job (other than looking after neighbour’s pets etc). McDonald’s. Brilliant training ground. Huge learning curve for us as parents and Princess as an employee. Working 15-20 hours per week has certainly challenged our teen in how she manages her time. Plus, the location is ten minutes from home, not on a bus route.

When Princess filled out an online application for McDonald’s, she listed the closest three McDonald’s venues as places she would like to work. Within an hour, one of those centres sent her notification that she had an interview scheduled for the next week. She was also notified that since that McDonald’s centre had contacted her first, the other two places (which were on a bus route from our home) could not employ her whilst they were interviewing her and looking at employing her. This was a ‘newby’s mistake as now transport to and from work could become an issue.

The interview process at McDonald’s began with a group interview. Princess, three other applicants and the recruitment manager. Even before the formal interview began, two of the applicants had not followed the written email instructions on what to bring and when to arrive. The four teenagers were left on their own for at least ten minutes to see how they related with each other, who initiated conversation, who could keep a conversation flowing etc. When the manager ‘joined’ them. they had to share a couple of things about themself. Then they had an almost impossible time limit to do an odd shaped Star Wars jigsaw puzzle as a group. An ideal activity to see leadership skills rising, ability to look at issues from various angles, working under pressure, creativity etc. Whilst the manager took aside each applicant to ask further questions and check their paperwork, the others were left alone with a giant Jenga puzzle. Each part of the interview was strategically thought out to assess various skills and relational ability.

Below I have listed some suggestions if you have a child nearing the time of them looking for paid employment.

Before applying for a job:

  • Sit down and have a chat with your teenager about the why and what in relation to a job. Talk about the importance of earning an income. Brainstorm ideas of what sort of job. Make a list of skills they will require for future careers and what skills they can acquire with a part time job that will assist them in the future.
  • Look at your family lifestyle. Can you as a family fit a child having a job into your family life? Believe me, when your child gets their first job, it will affect the whole family. The extra driving your teen to and from work, the additional time that your teen is not at home to finish homework, do chores, participate in family life and holidays etc will all impact you as a family. Anything extra put into your family life affects the whole family ecosystem. Discuss this before your teen even applies for a job.
  • Educate your teen on the difference between being an entrepreneur and having their own business verse being an employee and the job skills and life skills they will learn with both.
  • Look at the timing. In Australia, a teenager has to wait until they are 15 years old to be able to be employed. Various employers have shared how they like to employ teenagers before the September school holidays in Australia so that the teen can learn the job before they work in the busy Christmas season.
  • Help your teen apply of a tax file number so that 46% of their wage is not withheld. You can get a tax file number for a child at any age (even as a baby) and, as it takes a number of weeks, the earlier you can get one for your child, the easier it is around the time of them starting paid employment.
  • Arrange bank accounts. They need a bank account for their wage to be deposited into. Do they want a separate account for long term savings?
  • Several months before they are ready to apply for a job, encourage your teen to write their resume. Brainstorm with them the skills they have developed from any volunteer work they have undertaken. Our daughter has been involved in a variety of volunteer positions so compiling the skills she has learnt from all the various roles was important. The current thinking is that a resume needs to be only one page long. Google resume writing to find the latest on how to present their resume.
  • It is important to realise that not only the job is important but where the job is. How is your teen going to get to the job and home again? Is there a bus route? Can they walk to work? Are you able to drive them to the job and back? What needs to be given up in order for this to happen?
  • What will your teenager need to give up time wise in order to work?
  • Spend time with them working out a budget and savings plan. Encourage them to plan out what they will be doing with the money and how much they will save, donate/tithe and spend. Some parents at this stage also look at beginning to charge rent based on a percentage of their income. That is something you need to work out together as a family.

Starting their first paid job:

  • Suitable attire and footwear. Thankfully, McDonald’s supply all clothing and recommend suitable non slip footwear.
  • Attitude and emotions. Like most things, there is usually the initial excitement and then a drop back to reality. Be there to chat with your teen about their feelings. Encourage them in their attitude to maintain a great attitude. Be careful not to criticise their boss or workplace. Help them keep a great perspective.
  • Be available and have time to debrief their work and attitudes with them.
  • Priority of work. When rostered on, they may be forced to say no to a social activity. Having an early night so as to be in top physical condition for work is important.
  • Time management. Suddenly your teen has less time for other activities as they now have to fit in their work hours. Help your teen with learning to manage their time. Encourage them to prepare their clothes the night before.
  • Time at work may also impact on their time for chores, especially whilst they adjust and manage their work hours to begin with. Chat with them about this and help them brainstorm possible solutions. Princess worked over 20 hours per week her first few weeks and this required managing and also her speaking to the roster person and manager. The skills that she learnt dealing with this were invaluable. She also needed to look at how she could still keep up with her homework plus chores.
  • Don’t short change your teenager. Please don’t jump in and interfere with their roster, contact their manager etc. Encourage them to be the one to address any issues with their manager. Certainly, brainstorm at home how to most effectively do this but please do not be the person ringing the manager about roster issues. Your teenager is the employee, not you. These are valuable skills your teen is learning.
  • Place boundaries around their spending. Keep an eye on their budget and savings plan and assist them to use their money wisely. They are still part of your family and under your roof so their money management should flow with the family’s attitude towards money.
  • Be encouraging and supportive.

Enjoy this new season in your teenager and your family’s life.

4 thoughts on “Your Teenager and their first paid job

  1. Christine Battams

    Great thoughts and information to reflect on in the next 12 months. The partnership with our kids at every level, and season is invaluable. I didn’t know that a tax File Number was available at any age. Great to know and what to prepare. Thanks Jane for sharing your journey.

    • Jane Post author

      Thanks Christine. Re tax file number – we did the hard work by getting both kids a tax file number about 8 years ago. Thus when our daughter began work, she was already prepared in that area.

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