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Get a Job: Nine Tips to Help Your Teen Score a Paycheck

Teens are facing more competition than ever for jobs, thanks to the economy. Here’s how you can help your teen find work:

1. Narrow the Field
Start the job search by helping your teens identify their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and the type of work they’re interested in.

“A very shy teenager may be uncomfortable with a job that calls for lots of customer interaction,” says Elizabeth Feehan, a New Jersey–based independent career consultant. “Likewise, a mechanically inclined youth who likes being outdoors might look for work as a landscape assistant.”

2. Help with the Hunt
Encourage searching online, cold calling, and visiting businesses to ask if they’re hiring. Networking with your friends and colleagues—and your teen’s friends’ parents and colleagues—also can play a vital role in uncovering unadvertised opportunities.

However, job experts recommend to not go overboard in seeking inside tracks or making recommendations.

“Parents should explain to their teens that their job applications and on-the-job actions reflect those who have recommended them,” says Austin Lavin, twenty-five-year-old co-founder of MyFirstPaycheck.com, a Website he and his eighteen-year-old sister, Celeste, designed for teens on the hunt for work.

3. Promote Out-of-the-Box Thinking
If traditional employment is impossible to find, teens can use their expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to start their own businesses, such as babysitting, lawn mowing, or even tech support. Some ideas for neighborhood self-employment include:

  • Scanning photos and creating digital photo albums
  • Cleaning and organizing garages and basements
  • Conducting “How to use the Internet” or computer seminars
  • Grocery shopping
  • Pet sitting/dog walking
  • Cleaning and detailing cars

Celeste Lavin says parents can help their teens figure out what to charge for such work by calling competitors and asking for their rates. However, the bottom line is that your teens should feel good about what they earn for their effort.

You’ll also need to guide them through taxes, since they’re subject to self-employment taxes if they make more than $400 a year.

4. Give Them a Paycheck Reality Check
Money is important to teens, but unrealistic expectations or cocky attitudes about their pay could derail their efforts.

“Believe it or not, minimum wage is a good base salary for teens,” says Celeste Lavin. “After that, if they want more, they have to realize raises and promotions are merit based.”

She said when looking for fair pay, young people should make sure their employers are paying them the same wage they would any other new employee with the same level of experience. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25. Some states also have minimum wage guidelines. Where federal and state laws have different minimum wage rates, your teen will get the higher wage.

To find out the minimum wage in your area, click on your state in the Minimum Wage Laws in the States map provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

5. Offer Your Proofreading Services
Résumés and job applications are a prime opportunity for your teens to stand out. Critique the résumé, but don’t be critical. Without work experience, your teens can instead list academic achievements, extracurricular activities, volunteering experiences, and technical skills.

The Lavins say you can offer to help teens design and write their résumés. There’s a résumé-builder tool on MyFirstPaycheck.com if they want to try it themselves. At the very least, parents can offer to proof their teens’ résumés and applications for misspellings and grammatical errors.

6. Walk Them Through a Mock Interview
Offer to role-play to practice interview skills. After a few sessions with you as a potential boss, your teens will be more confident for the real thing.

But don’t mock them in the mock interview. “The best thing a parent can do to help their teens find jobs is provide encouragement,” says Austin Lavin. “Applying for jobs can be a discouraging process and parents need to help their teens be positive and persistent.”

7. Don’t Coddle Them
Remember this is your teen’s job search, not yours. “Provide support and tools they ask for, but don’t do it all for them,” says Atlanta-based certified career coach Hallie Crawford. “You’re not allowing them to grow and learn when you coddle them. An employer isn’t going to want to hire someone who can’t do work on their own.”

Celeste Lavin said parental involvement in their teens’ job search is risky, because so many parents want them to succeed and wind up micromanaging it. “Part of the excitement of a first job is the independence associated with it,” she says.

8. Encourage Thank-Yous and Follow Ups
Explain to your teens that sending thank-you notes after an interview—even for the most menial job—is a great tool to set them apart from the competition. It shows they’re both polite and interested in the job.

Also, if your teens haven’t heard back from an interview within a couple days, urge them to make a follow-up phone call. It will help ease your teens’ possible anxiety, remind an interviewer that they’re still interested, and let them move on to another interview if they didn’t get the job.

9. Keep Them Safe, Not Sorry
Your teen may find a job that you dislike, but you should bite your tongue unless the work is dangerous or unsavory.

“Parents have the responsibility to make sure their teens take jobs where they can be safe and comfortable,” Austin Lavin says.

To learn more about safety on the job for teens, go to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Department of Labor’s Youth Rules! also provides information on labor laws for teens.

Originally published on USAA.com

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