Do you want to help your kids be prepared for the working world? Here are some tips for you to help prepare your teen for a first job!
Everyone wants their teenagers to be successful, right? You hope he will finish school, get a good job, and make a meaningful contribution to society.
But…you can’t wait until your child is 13 (or worse, when your teen is about to head off to college!) before teaching the keys to success. Many of the items on this list are built up starting when your child is a toddler. A one-time lesson won’t work either. Consistent (daily even) reinforcement of these concepts helps your child to develop solid skills and good habits.
Follow these tips to help prepare your teen for their first job:
Strong Work Ethic
First, help your teenager develop a strong work ethic. He should understand that work comes first and if he wants to be successful he needs to have a good attitude toward his job.
You should have discussions with your teenager about things like:
- Attendance: showing up to work consistently
- Being punctual: arriving on time and ready to work with any needed materials
- Listening to and following instructions
- Staying on task and completing tasks on time
- Being a hard worker: by giving good, consistent effort
- Quality work (vs. ”just getting by”)
- Taking initiative
- Be a problem solver! Instead of sitting around bored when there’s nothing to do – clean your work area, find ways to make workflow smoother, or find a solution to a problem for your boss or co-worker.
- Importance of perseverance
- Be ready for a challenge. Don’t give up when things are a little hard.
- Maintaining a healthy balance between work and home/social life
- Having a good, positive attitude
- Positive people make the workplace pleasant and having a good attitude is helpful when dealing with difficult customers or co-workers.
Next, your teen should develop good, strong communication skills. Help your teenager understand the importance of:
- a firm, steady handshake
- maintaining eye contact
- speaking slowly and clearly (and loud enough)
- when and where to use slang and jargon
- asking appropriate questions (especially during an interview)
- basic phone etiquette
- how to answer the phone in a professional manner
- when to use (and not use!) your cell phone
- appropriate use of texting and emojis
- how to write a professional email
- good grammar and punctuation skills
- appropriate email structure and format
As a parent, the minute your child is born you should be consistently (and patiently!) teaching, re-enforcing, and modeling good communication skills.
A great way to practice communication skills (and prepare for an interview) is by setting up a mock interview. More on this later.
Along with strong communication skills, your teenager needs to develop good professional behavior.
This includes things like:
- Cell phone etiquette during work
- only for emergencies – unless required for your job, then only for job-related functions while at work
- The importance of hard work
- how to go “above and beyond” (I once received a large bonus because my boss noticed I kept busy even during slow times when I had little of my normal work to do.)
- How to appropriately and politely handle difficult customers/co-workers
- always be respectful and calm
- set healthy, appropriate boundaries
- get help from management if it continues or gets out of hand
- Appropriate work and interview (and “picking up an application”) clothes and appearance
- appropriate and comfortable clothes and shoes (i.e. no pajamas) (one tip: observe how normal employees dress and dress one small step above that for your interview)
- clothes should be clean and neat
- avoid too much makeup, perfume, or jewelry
Wearing appropriate clothing is especially important if your job is face to face with the public (customer service).
As with communication skills, you should be consistently teaching practical life skills to your child from the time he is very young. As he grows, your teen should be helping out at home, on errands, and in daily life with you by:
- Keeping a monthly budget
- Developing cooking skills
- learning to read recipes
- organization & budgeting for groceries
- practical math skills (how to double a recipe, measure ingredients, etc.)
- Practicing computer and typing skills
- Scheduling appointments and signing up for classes or events
- Following directions (including thinking and planning ahead for things like vacations, appointments, etc.)
- Writing notes
- Organizational skills
Good Financial Habits
If you haven’t already, you need to have several discussions with your teenager about finances. If this is his first job, you should help him:
- Establish a budget
- Understand the parts of a paycheck
- Set financial (saving) goals
- Understand taxes
Related: Important Financial Lessons for Kids
And last, but not least, the interview! Talk with your teen about how to make a strong first impression with these solid interview skills.
Last, but not least, the interview is a chance for your teen to shine and show off her skills and abilities. Tell her to be prepared to make a good first impression and land that first job by:
- Having a mock interview
- Grab a parent or friend and practice using common interview questions
- Making sure to arrive early (never late!)
- be aware of the commute times
- know what transportation you will need to arrive at your job (bus, bike, car, etc.) and how long it will take
- Learning a bit about the company before going to the interview
- read general information on the company
- if possible and appropriate, browse the location ahead of time
- Preparing a few questions to ask the interviewer. Some examples:
- What are the qualities of your ideal candidate?
- When do you plan to make a hiring decision?
- What are the expected hours/pay?
- What are the main responsibilities?
- Is there a possibility of promotion?
- Polishing her resume (if needed, get extra help writing or editing the resume)
- Giving clear, concise answers to interview questions (not too brief or long-winded)
- Showing her skills by giving concrete examples
- Knowing her resume and experiences/qualifications and how they apply to the job so she can answer quickly and easily
- Dressing appropriately (first impressions are important!)
- Turning off her cell phone
- Acting professionally
- Give a firm handshake
- Make eye contact
- Speak clearly and confidently
- Be positive, friendly, enthusiastic!
- Thank the interviewer
- Send a thank-you note after the interview
- Being prepared to say why the job interests her (why she wants to work there)
What to bring to the interview:
- application (if not already turned in)
- 2-3 copies of her resume
- notepad and pen
A note on volunteer opportunities:
In addition, don’t discount volunteer opportunities – your teen can gain valuable interpersonal, organizational, and professional skills with a good, solid volunteer position. Some volunteer opportunities can be a step towards a paid position – especially if you work hard and do your job well. Other opportunities include paid internships.
If your teenager has a chance to go abroad for a short, volunteer opportunity, this is even better! Exposure to other cultures can expand the mind and help make a good employee by strengthening your ability to deal with all kinds of people. The best way to prepare your teen for a first job is practicing all these life skills on a daily basis in many different situations!
Finally, don’t take for granted that your teenager will learn all these things before heading out to her first interview. Start discussing these topics now and modeling good communication and professional skills to your kids. Follow these tips to help prepare your teens for the workforce and give them skills to be successful in their first job and beyond! I’d love to hear which skills you think are most important!
Recap: 6 Ways to Prepare Your Teen for the Workforce:
- Strong Work Ethic
- Communication Skills
- Professional Behavior
- Practical Skills
- Good Financial Habits
- Interview Skills