London M. was only 13, when he learned the ups and downs of working, last year. Some days his job at a bookstore was fun and other days boring, but either way he liked making money of his own.
London says he really liked the people he worked with and had a lot of fun doing different tasks, such as taking inventory in addition to shelving books, cleaning and working the cash register.
Yet, he said, “it kind of gets boring doing the same stuff.” That’s when he thinks of the money he’s making and the other benefits of the job: “It teaches me to do things on my own, to get things for myself instead of depending on my parents,” he says.
Getting a first job can be difficult for kids, but one good place to start is simply doing errands or household chores for your family.
Bill W., 14, says doing chores well can help prove to your parents that you’re ready to get a job of your own. “Do some work around the house to show them that you can, and they’ll let you do better stuff and bigger stuff,” he says.
You then can start offering to do the same chores you’re doing at home – maybe mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or washing windows – for relatives and neighbors to make money. All the time you’ll be gaining experience that will help you get paying jobs.
“Think about, and maybe talk to your mom and your dad about, what experience do I have?” says Judith Lansky, president of Lansky Career Consultants in Chicago and a former placement director at Columbia College in Chicago. With the help of your parents or an older sibling, you can figure out what you’re best at. Maybe you’re good with people or are great at math. These kinds of skills can help you get a job.
Also consider your interests. Bill, a sports fan, got a job as a baseball umpire for a local park district.
Adults apply for jobs with a résumé, but Peter Manci, a career counselor in Rochester, N.Y., who is affiliated with the National Career Development Association, suggests kids start out simply by putting together a list of all the people they have worked for.
For instance, if you want to do lawn work, write down the names and phone numbers of all the relatives and neighbors you’ve done similar work for. Invite the adult you want to hire you to call any of the people on your list to find out what kind of work you do. (You’ll want to check with the people on your list first, asking them if it’s OK to have people call.)
Abby W., 10, will have a long list of people to recommend her when she starts her baby-sitting business. She’s already taken a baby-sitting course and is getting some experience as a mother’s helper for her neighbors.
Abby is building up trust by letting parents be somewhere else in the house while she looks after the
children. “Hopefully,” she says,
“the moms will like how I take
care of their kids, so they’ll
learn to trust me more.”
It’s important to let lots of
people know you’re interested
in finding a job. Adults looking for jobs often “network,” and kids can do pretty much the same thing, Lansky says. Ask parents, aunts, uncles and your parents’ friends whom they know and if they’ve heard of anyone looking to hire a young person.
It’s also a good idea just to take the initiative and go out looking for work. “Some kids go up and down a strip mall if they don’t have contacts,” Lansky says.
You can learn a lot by watching people at work and asking adults about the work they do. By tagging along and being helpful on small tasks, you can get to know the work and gradually prove that you’re worth hiring.
That tactic worked for London at the bookstore. “I got my job because I [was] down there so often and I really got to know the people,” he says.
Keep in mind that the first job you get may not be glamorous. Consider it a first step, Lansky says. Any work you do will help show you’re responsible and can hold a job. “Then when you go and apply for a job later, you’ve already demonstrated you know how to be a good employee,” she says.
To find out more about careers that might fit your interests, check out www.bls.gov/k12/.