10 Ways to Help Your Teen Find a Job


This content is provided courtesy of USAA.

Anyone hitting the pavement today is finding a tough job market. For teens, it's especially challenging. In 2011, the unemployment rate for teens has hovered above 24%, more than twice the national rate of just over 9%.

Here's how you can help your teen find work.

1. Narrow the Field.

"The economy has shown us that people need to think about these things in their teens much earlier than they typically do," says Hallie Crawford, USAA member and founder of an Atlanta-based career coaching firm. "Sometimes we ask teens what they're good at, but they don't know or aren't confident. Teachers, school guidance counselors or parents have seen what they can do and can help them identify their strengths."

2. Help with the Hunt.

Parents can encourage their teen to make phone calls and visit businesses to ask if they're hiring, or search online services like MyFirstPaycheck.com, a job-listing website that specializes in employment help and jobs for teens. But you also can help them network with your friends and colleagues to find out about unadvertised jobs, such as internships.

However, such help should come in a balanced way. "I've heard too many stories lately of parents going on job interviews with their teens," notes Crawford. "Don't be a helicopter parent, but help with introductions. That's often the way people get jobs — through the hidden job market."

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.

Parents can help their teens advertise these services through word-of-mouth advertising with their network of friends and tactically placed ads, such as in community newsletters. 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.

"A great benefit of a teen-owned "business" is that it provides real-world experience in managing cash flows and understanding what it takes to make money. This experience can lay a great foundation for managing personal finances in the future," says Scott Halliwell, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner with USAA.

4. Give Them a Paycheck Reality Check.

Money is important to teens, but you can help them avoid unrealistic expectations about pay. "Sometimes kids don't realize that money doesn't grow on trees. Their first job can be a real eye-opener as to the true value of a dollar," says J.J. Montanaro, also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner with USAA. Your teen probably won't make a lot of money at their first job, but they should expect to be paid fairly for their work.

Fair pay simply means that employers are paying the same wage to your teen that they would to any other new employee with the same level of experience. For reference, 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.

Resumes and job applications are prime opportunities for your teens to emphasize their skills and strengths. Parents can offer to help teens design and write their resumes or fill out job applications.

There's a resume builder tool on MyFirstPaycheck.com, if they want to try it themselves. At the very least, parents can offer to proof their teens' resumes and applications for misspellings and grammatical errors. If they don't have any work experience, your teens can instead list academic achievements, extracurricular activities, volunteering experiences and technical skills.

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.

Just be careful not to mock them in the mock interview. "They haven't done this before. They don't know how to behave," explains Crawford. "You need to talk about guidelines, about what it means to be professional. Texting doesn't work when setting up an interview. You have to make phone calls, so how do you do that? Then you have to work on face-to-face communications. Help them pay attention to their appearance and body language — don't chew gum; get a haircut; shave."

7. Encourage Thank-you Notes 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 of 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.

8. Volunteer.

If your teens still struggle to find work, encourage them to volunteer while they continue their search. "Teens often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place — to get a job they need experience, but to get that experience, they need a job," notes Crawford, who points out that volunteering helps beef up a resume with essential skills. "Volunteer work also is a great way to get your foot in the door, especially in industries that are difficult to break into, like the movie industry or gaming industry."

9. Don't Coddle Them, Encourage Them.

Your teen may find a job that you dislike, but you should bite your tongue unless the work is dangerous or unsavory.

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

10. Keep Them Safe, Not Sorry.

Finally, remember this is your teens' job search, not yours. "Provide support and tools they ask for, but don't do it all for them," says 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."

That said, be sure to provide plenty of encouragement, especially when the going gets tough. "Parents need to tell teens that finding a job is a job in and of itself. It takes time and persistence," reminds Crawford. "Be a cheerleader."

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