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First Paid Job

Jane Berry

One of our roles as a parent is to help our children develop the necessary skills to function well as an adult in today’s society. In raising children who are world changers, hubby and I 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 job-hunting skills (including the application and interview process) and managing work, study and a social lifestyle is helping them get experience in this area. 

A number of 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. 

Being home educated, our teenagers have more flexibility and freedom with their time than if they were attending ‘traditional’ schooling. 

Research conducted in the United States nearly a decade ago showed that students who worked 10 hours per week achieved higher grades than those who didn’t.1 However, working 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 learn time management skills. More time working, though, can mean that work competes against study. Research also showed 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 skills beyond 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 e.g. cleaning. This all builds a young person’s resilience and confidence. 

A negative for teenagers getting a part time job and earning money is the ‘freedom’ (and potential excess) their new buying power brings. Discussions about expectations, values and boundaries are necessary. This 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 later. 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 without their parents. 

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 our daughter as an employee. Working 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 our daughter filled out an online application, 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 (which were on a bus route from our home) could not employ her whilst the first store was considering her. This was a newbie’s mistake as now transport to and from work could become an issue. 

The interview process began with a group involving our daughter, 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 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 themselves. 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 with a giant Jenga puzzle. Each part of the interview was strategically thought out to assess various skills, initiative and relational ability. 

Below I have listed some suggestions if you have a child considering their first job.

Before applying for a job: 

  • Sit down and have a chat 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. 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 versus being an employee and the job skills and life skills they will learn with both. 
  • Look at the timing. Teenagers must be 15 years old 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 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 at birth 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 one for their wage to be deposited into. Do they want a separate account for long term savings? 
  • Several months before applying, encourage your teen to write their resume. Brainstorm with them the skills they have developed with any volunteer work they have undertaken. The current thinking is that a resume for a job- starter should only one page long. Google resume writing to find the latest advice. 
  • It is important to realise that not only the job is important but where it is. How will your teen get there and back? Bus? Walk? Are you able to drive them? 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. 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. 
  • Chat about what they put on social media and how this would look to a potentail employer who checks. Some do. 

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 about their feelings. Encourage them 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. Help them brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Don’t short change your teenager. Please don’t jump in and interfere with their roster or contact their manager unless it is absolutely necessary. Encourage them to be the one to address any issues . Certainly, brainstorm at home how to most effectively do this. 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. 

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