An important milestone in the life of a teenager (and their parents) is the first job. Each child will reach that milestone in his/her own time and the average workplace looks for teenagers who are at least 14 – 16 years of age. As a parent, you may be ready for them to get a job before they express the desire. Here are some things to consider when deciding if your child is ready for his/her first job.
Some kids have their hands out for money on a daily basis. They want brand name clothing and the latest electronics, while others are content with the things they have. If your child has expensive taste and is always looking for money, it may be time to start earning money. Even children with low financial needs may want to consider working to save for college or other expenses. Practice goal setting with your teenager and help him/her set some financial goals, then set up savings plans so he/she can achieve those goals.
Children who achieve well in school can probably handle the extra workload of a part-time job. If your child struggles with academics, you may want to consider holding off on working until their grades improve. If they really want to earn money but can’t afford to take that time away from their studies, consider short work hours. They could do jobs such as grass cutting or dog walking, that would also allow them to listen to ebooks while they work.
The workplace will help your child develop some maturity, such as time management and following instructions, but it shouldn’t be the place they first learn those skills. If your child tends to be argumentative with adults other than his parents; hasn’t grasped basic hygiene; can’t commit to a schedule or timeline, then he isn’t prepared to enter the workforce. However, these are skills that can be encouraged at home, along with learning to accept feedback and make improvements based on it. In a worst case scenario, your child takes on a job before he has the maturity, and loses the job. This is a valuable life lesson that your teen can grow from and do better at his/her next job.
The amount of screen time that teenagers are exposed to can delay their social skills. Communication is done through texting and social media instead of face to face. Real communication skills are necessary at work. Practice role playing job interviews and performance reviews with your children to prepare them. If they are looking for customer service roles, play the role of a customer so they can prepare for different scenarios.
Your child’s physical and mental health is the top priority to consider before taking on a job. Many teenagers today face mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Others may have medical concerns. Work with your child to find a job that will allow him/her to put their health needs first. That could mean having a job where you work alongside a family member or friend. Another option would be a job where it is possible to take a break when necessary, or work short shifts. Ensure employers know about any special needs your teenager may have. Work out a plan of action in case of emergency.
Does your child want a job? Even if you can check off all of the other boxes, if your teenager doesn’t have the motivation to get a job, there’s not much point in pushing it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that parents need to be handing out money hand over fist. Set financial limits and remind your child that he/she can start earning their own money at any time. In some cases, you may need to seek out job opportunities and help them fill out applications. What looks like a lack of motivation may just be fear of the unknown or a lack of knowledge on how to get a job.
You may have a mature child with financial needs and goals who is ready to work, but doesn’t have the time. These are often kids who are heavily involved in sports or other extra-curricular activities; who have family responsibilities with younger siblings, farm work or helping with a family business. Some of these things would obviously work as paid positions. If this isn’t the case, it may be time to weigh the pros and cons of the extra-curricular activities and make decisions around jobs and finances.
Once you and your teenager have decided it is time for their first job, help them with the first steps. Look for available jobs, talk to people you know who could hire them and create a resume. Most employers don’t expect young teenagers to have elaborate resumes, so keep it simple by highlighting their strengths and personal experiences. This is an exciting time for kids and parents, so help them enjoy their new financial freedom while encouraging them to save.