Hey Kids! It's Time Your Butt Got a Job

The economy is hurting all of us – especially families trying to raise and educate their kids. Unfortunately, things have become so tight that there is often little left over to do anything but complain. Even worse, a lot of struggling parents still cater to their offspring who are now of an age where they should no longer expect their parents to buy everything for them and instead take an interest in earning their own money.

Who doesn't have a grandpa that can regale you with tales of his early earnings of a few pennies an hour that went to support his entire family? Well, these days, most kids who are working are only doing it to feed their shoe, clothing, video game, or dating habits. How many actually contribute to the entire welfare of the family? Sure, there are many who do just that, all the while struggling to get a college degree for themselves. But there are many more youth who'd rather sit at home and do not much of anything for themselves.

So, as parents in need, it really is not that unreasonable to get your of-age children out into the work force, at least during the summer months when school is not in session. The concept of work and earning their own money may be a bit foreign to some teens out there, so I made a nice little to-do list that parents can pass along to their teens as they break the news that a summer job is on the menu.

Here is what you both can work on together:

Make Sure The Kid is Legit

The legal working age for teenagers in the US is 14. There are different regulations regarding working papers in each state. You can contact the Department of Labor to find out the rules for your area or even check in with the staff at the high school who might even have the papers you need to complete. The earlier you do this, the better prepared you are before securing a summer job.

Get To Asking Around

There are a ton of people every teen knows and sees everyday. From teachers to coaches, to music lesson instructors and neighbors and friends, there is a great chance someone knows somebody who e who needs help. Running errands, planting gardens, doing small home repair work can not only keep you out of the fast food joints, they may turn into something enjoyable, financially rewarding, and an incredible learning experience. Let everyone know you are going to be looking for work this summer. You never know what you might find if you just ask.

Get Creative

When teens think of a J-O-B, they may only think in terms of retail, restaurants and grocery stores. But the reality is there is a whole world of opportunity out there for young entrepreneurs. Some of the richest people in the world today start out as a kid dabbling in their own creative worlds, which in turn gave them the start to where they are today. If you have an idea, an invention, or a plan, share it with your parents. If they can't help, keep digging around until you find someone that can.

Be Enthusiastic But Appropriate

When you go out in search of a job, it's great to show people your personality but keep it appropriate. Watch your language and that includes proper English. Use your manners. A “please” and a “thank you” can certainly go a long way. Remember that your enthusiasm is a great asset but it is also just as important that you can stay focused on the job and tasks required of you.

Be On Time for the Interview (and Every Day of Work)

No employer is going to hire someone who can't even make it to the interview on time. You need to present yourself in the best possible manner, no matter what the nature of the job is. Dress neatly even if it is a casual atmosphere. Bring references and records from school, to show that you are dedicated and interested in making a good first impression. Remember, you only get that chance once. Thank the interviewer for their time and when you get home, drop them a thank you note in the mail. This may carry some extra weight in the hiring decisions.

Celebrate a Job Well-Done Then Get to Work

When you get the news that you have been hired for a summer or part time job, be proud of yourself for doing great legwork to get yourself the job. But don't celebrate for too long. You want to start your job on time and well rested. You'll want to pay attention in order to learn your way around the new position. Be sure to show initiative and don't wait for everyone else to always tell you what to do or what needs to be done. If you want to keep your hard-earned job, you will need to prove yourself worth of the job.

 Make A Deal With the Parental Units

While your parents may be reluctant to accept your money, there is no reason why you have to work for completely selfish reasons. Heck, your parents don't. While it is fine to keep some of your paycheck for yourself, make sure you give back to the people who have endlessly given to you. Make a trip tot he grocery store and pick up some basics without being asked. Take mom and dad out to dinner to celebrate your first pay. They will appreciate all of those simple things more than you can begin to understand.


Average: 4 (1 vote)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

Kids have to have their own motivation to go look for a job. Do keep an eye on where they are considering working. We had another parent offer to hire our oldest to do summer construction with his company, but was going to pay him far below the minimum wage and treat him as an "independent contractor" so he would have no work comp or other typical employee rights or benefits.

We put a stop to that idea pretty quick. It served as a good lesson in labor law, safety at work and how to figure out if a job offer is worth taking or not.

Guest's picture

this is great advice, and back when I was in high school, my part time jobs were great experiences. I would just hope that parents won't be too hard on those kids who can't find a job, now or this summer. Unemployment is highest for teenagers right now; given the poor economy, they may be unable to find anything as older workers in harder hit areas take jobs, out of necessity, that teenagers would ordinarily take.

Guest's picture

when so many adults are laid off & are now desperate enough to take the "teen" jobs in an effort to feed their families.

Guest's picture

The thing I disliked about high school-era jobs were the mindlessness. What I did not realize is that by doing those mindless jobs, I was also being exposed to different working cultures. When it came time to interview for a "real" job, I had a sense of office dynamics, retail dynamics, and freelancing dynamics. I wish my parents had been able to articulate that to me and point it out at the time! I would have paid more attention to that most valuable aspect of the high school job.

Guest's picture

Not very timely, since even supermarkets are laying people off now. Anyway, it might be a good idea to mention Roth IRAs

Guest's picture

Two major downsides to having your teen work (particularly at some typical McJob):

First, the hours can tend to expand until it affects your child's schoolwork. Many managers don't care about your kid's educational aspirations. They only care about getting their shifts covered. It's unlikely that a child is going to be able to flip burgers each evening and all day Saturday and still get their homework done. What's minimum wage if it keeps them out of college?

Second, minimum wage is crap, but not to a teen's mind. To their way of thinking it's a ton of money for very little mental effort. Depending on your teen's personality, they might just decide that working and bringing in some cash is better than spending a ton of money and being broke through four years (forever!) of boring college.

If you want your kid to get a work ethic and can afford it, I'd recommend giving them an extra allowance in exchange for volunteering someplace either intellectually stimulating or morally uplifting (or both). Match what their after tax wage would be at the "Joe job" and remember that you don't have to pay employment taxes. This has the added benefit of leaving more jobs for adults who may desperately need them right now as well as supporting good causes that may lack funding. And you control their hours and working conditions.

If you can't afford that (and I sympathize with that position) then look for low paid internships that match your child's educational interests. Things like fetching and carrying for professors or professionals. If your teen has a professional career already in mind you could even work with them to approach prominent local examples to propose an unofficial internship. They'll make a little money and maybe learn something in the process.

Guest's picture

It's hard enough finding a job for adults in this economy... Responsibility starts at home... don't expect the workplace to teach your kids something you haven't bothered to do yourself.

Guest's picture
Mom of 6

I have a son who is willing to work, but not to take responsibility for getting himself there. He wants me to pick him up from school and drive him, then drive him home. We are a one-car family, and most days I don't have a car. I certainly don't have an hour in my day to sit in traffic at his school. He rides the bus home and there are many, many job opportunities within 5 miles, easily reached by bicycle.

Both his father and I rode ourselves to our jobs as teens. My husband continued this practice well after we were married. Son won't even consider it. What if it rains? What if I get a flat tire? What if it's hot? I've told him if he wants a car he'll have to work to get one. We have no money for a car or insurance for him and believe strongly he should earn it for himself. He is willing as long as it doesn't inconvenience him.


Guest's picture

Not all kids are going to be able to juggle school and a job. The results can be pretty ugly when only one is paying you money. My senior year in HS I actually quit school because I was exhausted(this was before they legislated limits on how much a teen could work)and couldn't juggle both. My mother and stepdad missed the warning signs. You should be really careful because if you have a teen going from little money to having enough to buy that cute outfit or those neat games they always wanted the job may take priority over schoolwork. Some teens are not going to easily be able to see the long term benefits that doing well in school offer when weighing it against the money they can earn in the here and now. Carefully weigh the maturity level of your teen and make sure to keep up with their behavior and activity(I skipped 40 days of school before they notified my parent because I had called in "sick" from the 7 eleven). Set aside some time weekly to ensure that they understand balance and are keeping sight of those long term goals and not just looking at short term gratification and that they haven't put too much on their plate. I was fortunate my "quitting" could have resulted in my having to forgo my long term goal of the military (I was female so unable to join with a GED). Luckily, I had a clean record prior to that year, a decent GPA, and a compassionate stepfather who didn't want to see me jettison an opportunity(he called a congressperson and I ended up doing independant study in summer school and going to night school to get my diploma on time). Looking back I recognize that I just didn't have a sophisticated enough thinking process to understand long term planning.

Guest's picture

regale* you with tales...

Guest's picture

The cautionary tale* is a true one. If it makes one parent more careful, I am more than happy to have shared it. I bit off more than I could chew and my parents(happy to not have to provide me with extra cash since I was now earning my own) were none the wiser until it was almost too late. I, happy to have the cash, was not eager to share I was in over my head. I hid it(just like ALOT of teens do when in over their heads)until I almost screwed up a future opportunity.

I'm even betting, based on the fact that labor laws have changed for teens(in my state they can only work until 10PM and they can only work 25 hours per week), that my tale* is not all that uncommon.

Teenagers are not adults and just because they CAN get a job doesn't always mean they should.

Guest's picture

I agree that you need to model responsibility as parents before you can expect your kid to want to pull his/her own weight. I also agree that it's vital that you don't let your son or daughter take on too many hours at work.
Most importantly, I think you need to set an agreement in advance about how much money will be spent and how much will be set aside. When my daughter was 11, I had her take a hospital-run course on what every babysitter should know. When she started getting jobs, I told her, she would be required to bank at least half of the money -- but that she could spend the rest on anything she wanted, or save it, as she chose. When she was old enough for a "real" part-time job, I added, she would be required to bank at least three-fourths of her salary.
Since I brought the subject up before she actually started earning any money, it never became an issue. And when she got that real job, many weeks she didn't spend a dime -- merely handed me her paycheck and asked if I would mind dropping it off when I banked my own check.
Of course, you have to be prepared to walk the walk. And I was: If she had failed to bank the money, I really *would* have gone to the movie theater and told the manager that she had to quit.

Guest's picture

If you aren't taking a chunk of your teen's paycheck toward family expenses or an untouchable savings account, they're going to develop spending habits that will not be supportable when they're out on their own.

I watched a lot of my friends drop out of their freshman year of college because they had car payments, and sometimes credit card payments, on top of suddenly paying rent, buying textbooks, and their own food.

Getting through college or trade school without a ton of debt takes frugal habits. Plus, for a lot of people, at the end of college you have to take an unpaid or very low paid position to start your career. Having a lot of money in your pocket at 16 is poor training for that.

Torley Wong's picture

there are a lot of opportunities youth have that didn't exist in previous years — not carbon-copy jobs, but creative endeavors that can earn extra cash, or at least, encourage a teen to continue developing their artistic skills. For instance, learning video editing (so valuable on many fronts now, since it's a very popular way to communicate on the web) and uploading funny vids to YouTube. Or more meaningfully, video tutorials teaching how to use different software. (I've seen some really bright teens and even tweens get in on this and grow fanbases, wow.)

I believe looking for fresh ops, including entrepreneurial ones, can be more long-time rewarding. Sometimes, short-term "paying your dues" drudgery is necessary to appreciate what else is out there in the world, tho. :-)

Guest's picture

Work for a teen can be a good thing. They can earn money, learn how to handle it, learn responsibility, etc. However, remember that a work environment will inevitably bring new social influences into your teen's life. Is your teen ready for a new level of peer pressure? How much control will you have over the environment?

Just some things to think about.

Guest's picture

teens need to work. i think that it can be very good to develoip work habits during teenage years and can be used in life expierence with time.

with our poor on going enoconmy it's harder to ever for a teen to comp. with an adult whos' had at least a couple years of trainging for a job.

i agree, a parent paying (if they can) a teen for extra credit can be treated like work, and many applications ask for training/volunteer work. I believe that some teens although cannot work while at school. some need time to study first, and a good parental influence and role model can shape a teen to work early. but some become "the adult" and work early to help pay for a sick or weak adult in an well sometimes unstable household. or Sometimes, a close.

although, kids have the lowest rate of work today, i believe a program SHOULD BE CREATED that makes work JUST FOR TEENS
ages 16-19 along with a further Adult Program to help adults get job. That way as soon as these kids grow up, they'll have work exp. and our econ. won't FALl APART

Guest's picture
Kids Jobs

I need jobs for kids to make some money, and i have no idea what i can do to earn some money because i am under the age of 16. I have 4 years till i can get a real paying kids jobs. What kind of jobs can i do at this age to earn some money.