Teens’ Guide to Getting Their First Jobs

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When it’s time to start looking for your first job, the good news is that there are plenty of entry-level positions that don’t require skills or experience.

If you’re willing to work hard, probably for minimum wage, chances are decent that you’ll be able to land a position somewhere.

Lots of employers seek young workers, especially during the summer months. Don’t stress out too much about knowing how to perform your duties right away; you’re sure to catch on fast and be a valuable employee if you work at it.

Job Possibilities

Your possibilities for employment are many, depending on your age, location, and interests. Lots of young people start with informal work, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow. These jobs are ideal for young teenagers.

You might get some job leads by scanning local bulletin boards, knocking on neighbors’ doors, or talking to your guidance counselor at school.

You could also apply for jobs with local businesses, such as stores, restaurants, and service providers (professional lawn care, hospitality, etc.).

Be on the lookout for area businesses advertising available jobs, especially those that specifically indicate that experience isn’t required.

Writing a Résumé and Cover Letter

Writing a résumé when you don’t have job experience might sound impossible, but although you might not have any jobs to list on a résumé, you probably have other valuable experiences that you can include.

Make skills and education the focus of your résumé to show prospective employers your positive qualities.

If you’ve taken classes to gain skills such as coding or accounting, list these classes on your résumé. If you’ve volunteered for local nonprofit organizations, add these experiences to your résumé. If you’ve ever participated in internships, extracurricular activities, honor societies, or community groups, add this information as well.

Create a cover letter for the résumé, too. Your cover letter introduces you to prospective employers.

Keep the cover letter short, write it specifically for each job.

Mention your skills and qualities, and summarize why you are the best choice for the job. Address your cover letter to a specific person in the company whenever possible, and provide your full name and contact information.

Interviewing Tips

When potential employers invite you for interviews, you’ll want to prepare so you can put your best foot forward.

Learn as much about the company and the position as you can before your interview. Choose appropriate clothing for a job interview, such as a collared shirt and dress pants for boys and a blouse and dress pants or a skirt for girls. Fix your hair so you look neat and well-groomed, and apply makeup in moderation.

Be on time for the interview, and smile with confidence.

Maintain eye contact, listen attentively, and speak clearly. When the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, ask at least one or two questions. You might ask specific questions about the position’s duties and responsibilities or something about the work team.

Don’t forget to thank the interviewer at the end of the interview, and follow up with a personal thank-you note within a few days.

Legal Details About Getting Hired

When you accept a job, you’ll need to follow local, state, and federal laws regarding employment, especially if you’re a minor. Many municipalities require that teenagers under age 18 have an employment certificate that confirms to employers that they are old enough to work.

You might also have to get a work permit, issued by your city before you can begin working.

The company will probably have some forms for you to fill out as well, including a W-4 form for tax withholding and possibly some internal forms for the company.

Once you complete your W-4, you’ll be able to track your earnings and withholdings with each paycheck by reading your pay stub. Pay stubs may seem full of complicated information, but they’re not difficult to decipher.

Your pay stub will:

Tell you the amount of each paycheck, your year-to-date earnings, and your withholdings for federal, state, and local taxes. If you don’t understand your pay stub, ask for assistance from your employer.

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