Katie Brenneman 6m 933
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
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Getting your first job as a teenager is a major milestone. Along with gaining a driver’s license, it’s one of the milestones that will help any young adult that’s coming of age gain a sense of independence and freedom. That said, the Peter Parker principle reigns supreme: with great power comes great responsibility.
Though getting your first job can and should be exciting, there are some things you should know before getting started. The working world can be a scary place, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. In addition, it’s unfortunately all too easy for employers to try to take advantage of young employees who don’t have a lot of experience.
To be better prepared, it’s best to take a look at some of the following tips when applying for your first job and be aware of some red flags that may flare up along the way.
It’s not uncommon for teens to look for jobs that can give them a sense of direction in life. It’s especially true if you’re graduating soon and trying to test out the waters of a certain career path.
With that in mind, make sure you’re selective when it comes to your job search. It can be tempting to apply for just about anything, and in today’s economy, you’re likely to find something like a fast-food job or retail gig fairly quickly.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either job choice.
However, the job you choose should match up with skills you already have or are trying to develop. For example, if you tend to be introverted and shy, you’re probably not going to excel in a job that requires you to talk to people all day. Now, if that’s a skill you want to improve, finding a place to work that allows for a little engagement might be a better fit.
You might also want to consider an internship if you’re focusing on a specific career path. Not all internships require previous experience, and many offer on-the-job training. While internships aren’t often paid, they can make it easier for you to land a job once you graduate high school or college.
Once you know the type of job you’re interested in, take the time to do your research on different employers. As a young worker, you should know your rights when it comes to employment, so you don’t get taken advantage of by an employer who wants to pay you less or make you work shifts that no one else wants like those on the weekends.
During your research, be aware of some warning signs that might indicate overall staffing issues. Some of the most common staffing issues often found in small businesses include:
- High turnover rates
- Payroll problems
Thanks to the Internet, it’s usually not hard to unveil these staffing issues along with the business environment and ethics. You might even find reviews from current or past employees. The last thing you want to do as you enter the workforce is to experience a toxic professional environment. This unfortunate experience could tarnish your view of the job-hunting process, and may even change your view of the career path you want.
Another red flag to be aware of is an employer who isn’t openly willing to discuss the details of your salary. Many teen jobs are hourly positions, so an honest employer should have no problem telling you what your wage should be. If they seem to go back-and-forth with different numbers or want to give you a “ballpark figure,” you may not end up getting paid what you deserve, and it’s probably best not to accept the job.
There are some things about joining the workforce that you’ll pick up on over time. If nothing else, having a job as a teenager is a wonderful way to gain experience and prepare yourself for whatever career path you choose.
However, there are some expectations you should be aware of before you start your first job. You don’t have to go in blindly wondering what your employer wants from you. In general, a few good “rules” to implement immediately include:
- Always showing up to work on time, if not early;
- Accepting the fact that you’ll make mistakes;
- Taking responsibility for those mistakes;
- Putting money aside for taxes.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your employer about their expectations. If you show them that you’re eager to do a good job, they’ll be more likely to guide and nurture your work performance so you can grow and excel in whatever you’re doing.
You don’t ever have to stop asking questions. While you should be able to eventually work independently and make informed decisions on the job, never hesitate to ask for directions if something is unclear, or you want to make sure you’re completing a task the way your employer wants it done. Your first job should be just as much of a learning experience as it is a paycheck.
If you’ve already started the job-hunting process, take a deep breath and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. The right job for you is out there, and it’s okay to take your time finding it. The more you know ahead of time, the more likely you are to enjoy it.
Katie Brenneman, Author photo