How to land your first job
It’s a question that can pose a real dilemma for teenagers. Should you get a part-time job and gain valuable work experience, or should you concentrate on your school work to have the best chance of getting good grades?
When both employers and universities say that they actively look for work experience in applications, it’s clear that a part-time job can be a very positive addition to your CV. But every teenager is different – the key is to maintain a balance between the benefits a job can bring and allowing plenty of time for homework, catching up with friends and chilling out.
What are the benefits?
A part-time job, whether it’s babysitting or waiting tables, can give you a greater sense of independence and help build a good work ethic for the future. It can give you a whole new set of transferable skills too, from working as a team and taking responsibility, to using your initiative and improving your communication skills. With an income of your own, a job can also help you learn valuable financial skills for the future, from weekly budgeting to saving for big items and future plans.
What to look for
Here are some typical part-time jobs that you could look for:
- working in a restaurant or fast food place
- retail jobs with your local shop, supermarket or garden centre
- odd jobs – washing cars, mowing lawns, babysitting
- dog walking and dog/cat-sitting
Ask friends and family for ideas and contacts, check the local paper for adverts, look online and listen out for where your friends are working.
Applying for jobs
Applying for a job can be as simple as asking in your local shop about work, or talking to your neighbour about babysitting. But some applications require a CV and an interview.
Here are some typical interview questions to help you prepare:
- Do you have any experience of this kind of employment?
- What general skills can you bring to this job?
- What experience/responsibilities do you have that would make you a good fit for this job?
- What is a strength of yours?
- What is a weakness?
- How do you work through your weaknesses?
- Do you like to work alone or as part of a team?
- Why do you want to work here in particular?
Teen job interviews will probably include questions about working with others and a willingness to learn. It’s a good idea for you to prepare some examples of how you have worked with family members, school friends and teachers in the past. You can use anything from your life to highlight skills or experiences you already have – like sports teams, clubs, student councils, orchestras or even team project work in class.
If you don’t know where to start, you can find plenty of advice on writing a CV, getting work experience and more here.
What about volunteering?
It’s not always easy to find a paid job, but volunteering can provide similar and valuable experience that will look good on any future CV. It can be especially useful for a career where people skills are important.
Rules about teens and work
Understandably, there are restrictions on how, when and where you can work at sixteen. Here are the key things to know.
During term time at 16, you can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:
• a maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
• a maximum of 8 hours on Saturdays for 16-year-olds
School holiday rules:
16-year-olds can work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:
• a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
• a maximum of 2 hours on Sundays
16-year-olds should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which currently stands at £4.55 per hour (2020/2021).
Type of work:
You’re not allowed to work in betting shops, in most roles in pubs or in an environment that could be detrimental to your health, education or well-being. Contact your local council’s education department or education welfare service for more information.
You can find out more here.
Infomation correct as at October 2020.
Top tips for teenagers at work
• Be on time – aim to get there a little early.
• Dress appropriately – make sure your clothes are clean, tidy and fit the job. Jeans and a sweatshirt are fine for babysitting or dog walking, but for waitressing or a retail job you might need something a bit smarter, perhaps a white shirt and black trousers or skirt. If in doubt, ask.
• Listen carefully, speak clearly and remember to smile.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you want to learn.
• Turn off your phone, or leave it at home.
• This may be your first job, but it won’t be your last. There’s always something to learn and the skills you pick up now could well be useful for life.
• Finally, make sure you create a good impression, even when you’re leaving a job, as your current employer might end up being a reference for a future part-time or full-time job.