The tricky business of helping your teen get a part-time job

My 17-year old son recently got his first part-time job – working as a store assistant in an outdoor adventures shop.

His job search was a stressful time for both of us – him because he had quite a few interviews before he was successful, me because he didn’t want any of my advice despite the fact that I help people find jobs for a living!

Finding your first job can be incredibly difficult. Gone are the days of paper rounds at 11 and waiting on tables at the local café at 13. There are fewer weekend jobs now with many employers wanting more than eight hours each week and lots of people trying to get these roles, making it harder than ever for young people to get even a part-time job. So what can parents do to support a teen looking for a job to start earning money and gain experience?

How to show experience when you have no experience!

This is the biggest hurdle for young people and can be very tricky to overcome. There is lots of competition for jobs, especially in retail and hospitality and in particular for part-time roles which can fit around studies. Finding a way to stand out is critical to creating an edge.

The best way to demonstrate they have some experience is volunteering – anything from doing a Duke of Edinburgh scheme at school, doing a role at a sports club, signing up to youth programmes like NCS ( after exams, to helping out at a local charity shop.

Where possible try to encourage your teen to align volunteering to their interests or future career goals – so if they think they want to do a job working with animals, getting a volunteering role at an animal charity, local farm or pet shop would be a great start.

They could also use examples from work experience at school or college. It’s a good idea to prompt your teen to ask for a reference from the person they worked most closely with, even if it was only for a week or two.

Be prepared with interview examples

Spending some time with your teen talking through some of the likely interview questions and helping them think of examples could pay dividends and help them feel more prepared, and therefore more confident. It’s pretty nerve-wracking when they have not really had any interviews before.

For a role working in a shop or restaurant expect questions about team work, attention to detail and customer service. Examples from school and college should be all the interviewer expects from a teenager, but help them to think more broadly about their hobbies too. Playing in a band or being part of a drama group is a good example of teamwork, for example. Because they have limited experience interviewers may also ask them hypothetical questions e.g. “What would you do if…” and give them a scenario. Get them to think about what the job involves, what might go wrong, and what they would do.

The Goldilocks formula for encouraging vs nagging

It’s a fine line between encouraging your teen to take action and start job-hunting without it feeling like you are nagging them. Because of course you will be the last person your teen wants to listen to!

It is important to remember that the job market has changed and some of the expectations are different to the way you potentially did things. You will know your teen best but I found recruiting other trusted adults to talk to him and sharing stories helped to reinforce what I had been suggesting. I had to gently nudge my son to go and hand out CVs in person again after not hearing back from the first time.

Coach, not manager

Positioning yourself like a sports coach – one who asks questions to help improve performance – as opposed to a manager – someone who tells their players what to do – will allow your teen to feel they are taking responsibility.

Things like not commenting on what they choose to wear for their interviews (hard as this might be!), instead letting them get feedback about not being smart enough or dressed appropriately will help them to learn and make their own decisions. These days some employers don’t expect you to turn up for an interview in a suit, it depends on the job.

One piece of feedback that my son was given in a store was to always ask for the manager when handing in his CV. If I had given him this advice he probably wouldn’t have paid it much attention but because the store manager suggested this he learned to ask for the manager in the next few shops he approached. I had to make a conscious effort to hold back on giving advice and let him learn for himself. However, doing this helped stop me feeling like I was being ignored!

At the same time, you will probably need to help build your teen’s confidence and give them tips for overcoming nerves. Practical things tend to be best, so practise a smile and a simple handshake, asking for a drink of water and, if they’ll let you, rehearse talking about themselves.

Handling rejection is another tough lesson from job interviews, so think about how your teen might react and how you might be able to help them stay positive about the next opportunity. Many of them don’t realise how much effort is involved and get easily de-motivated when they aren’t offered a job quickly. Reassure them that they may not be successful first time but they need to persevere and if they keep trying they will get somewhere.

Use word of mouth

Ask your teen what their friends are doing, it is often much easier to get a job when you know someone who already works for a company. Many will trust a recommendation from a good team member or maybe your own friends and family members will know someone who may be able to give them that first bit of experience to get them started.

Need some help?

We all know that we are the last person our teens often turn to for advice and guidance, so if you want my help I have worked with lots of students to help them identify their strengths for interviews and to put on CVs, as well as building confidence for interviews.

Whether your teen is looking for their first part-time role, is a school leaver looking for an apprenticeship or a job, is applying to college, or is a graduate leaving university I can help. Take the stress away and give me a call for a free, no-obligation chat on 07765 894040.


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