By Laureen Miles Brunelli

Updated on April 29, 2020

For most of us, job hunting is a daunting task rife with rejections and dead ends before it yields the prize of employment. For a teenager looking for his or her first job, this is only intensified. And so as a parent, you naturally want to help your teen find a job. But what kind of help should you give?

When helping teenagers find a job, parents should remember that the kids need to do most of the legwork. Parents should be coaches who give feedback, ideas and encouragement, not the person filling out applications or making phone calls. You will not be there when your child is actually on the job. Your teen will have to solve problems, ask questions and navigate workplace hurdles without you, so the job search process is the place to start reinforcing those skills.

It isn’t just finding a job that can be tough for your teen; it’s finding the right job. Success at your child’s first job can be a huge confidence booster that will help in other parts of life, such as school. And, well, failure at a job–while it can still be an important learning experience–will not likely have the same benefits. So help set your child up for success by carefully thinking this endeavor through first.

Most employers that hire teens are probably going to want them to fill out an online application or even a paper one. A printed resume brought to a job interview may never get looked at. However, a resume is an absolute must. First, it might be wanted, so they should have one handy.

The most important thing, though, about a resume is the act of creating it. By listing all the things he or she has accomplished so far, your teen will get little ego boost. It will also help teens develop talking points about their skills and experiences.3 The same is true of a cover letter. There’s a good chance it’s not needed but by writing it your teen will be focusing their thoughts about why they are right for a particular job.

Accomplishments or skills to add to a teen’s resume:

  • Previous work experience, including casual jobs like babysitting or dog walking
  • Volunteer work
  • Grade point average (if it is good)
  • Sports or clubs
  • Talents and interests
  • References

Timing – Does your child have the time for a job? Will he or she have to quit when sports season starts or for a family vacation? A job that only lasts a month is not impressive on the resume.

Schedule – If your teen’s schedule is already packed tight, then something might have to go to make a job a reality. Employers rarely want to train someone who can only work occasionally. Summer can be the ideal time for teens to get a job. Kids can take on more hours at that time and be trained for the job. During the school year, they can reduce hours or even quit.

Your Area’s Job Market  Some areas will have plenty of entry-level jobs for teens and others won’t. Assess what kind of work is available and talk with your teen about their prospects and the time it might take.

Transportation – How will your teen get to and from the job? 

Be prepared

Before looking for a job, learn everything you can about the job search process. Snagajob has lots of job articles to help you. We tell you what you need to know about popular jobs for teens in our teen jobs section. The Internet is a treasure trove of information about job hunting, job interviews and labor laws for teenagers. You can often get a feel for companies by visiting their website; the more you know about a company’s culture and brand, the better your chances of impressing an interviewer. 

Spread the word

Many jobs come through referrals from people you know, so it’s important to let everyone know you’re looking for a job. This is where your parents and their friends, teachers, coaches and other adults can be a great resource. Be sure to mention the kind of work you’d like to do, but don’t turn down an opportunity just because it’s not the perfect job. It might lead to the job you really want.

Work for the experience

Sometimes a job might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but it puts you in contact with people or organizations that might help you in the future. For example, working as an office clerk might not be the most exciting first job, but it might enable you to shadow someone in a job that interests you. Also, don’t be too quick to turn down a volunteer position as your first job. Sometimes the best compensation is experience – and future employers love to see volunteer experience on your resume.

Consider your options

Don’t limit yourself to your dream job or to the first job that comes along. Broaden your thinking to include as many options as possible. Start with your interests and consider all the possibilities. If you like working with animals, your ideal job might be working at a zoo, an animal shelter or a veterinarian’s office. But what about providing a dog-walking service or taking care of pets while their owners are on vacation? If you love working on your Honda, take a look at automotive jobs selling auto parts, doing oil changes or even detailing cars.  

Stick with it

Don’t give up if you can’t find a job right away. A job search takes persistence and patience. It’s important to keep trying, because a potential employer will notice if you have the determination and the drive to find a job.