Helping Teens be Successful on their First Job

Fast Food Restaurant Employee --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

A first job for a teen can be a really exciting and scary entry into the adult world! A job can help teenagers develop responsibility, gain confidence, learn new skills, obtain increased autonomy, achieve new accomplishments, develop work experience, and become more independent from their parents. Landing their first job is a huge step in any teenager’s life and worth celebrating, but it’s not enough on its own. Your teen needs to be able to keep that job! Here are some strategies to increase your teen’s chances that his/her first job will be a success:

First Impressions

Talk to your teen about the importance of first impressions, and explain that your teen’s employer will likely care a lot about how they are presenting themselves at work. If the new job provides a uniform, dressing for success means ensuring the uniform is clean and wrinkle-free. If there isn’t a uniform, find out if there is a dress code. Even if there isn’t a specific dress code, you can help your teen understand the basics of making a good first impression. Encourage your teen to practice good grooming and wear well-fitting, clean clothes and appropriate footwear (no flip-flops, stiletto heels, or shoes that are falling apart).

Respect Coworkers

Your teen will likely have to deal with lots of supervisors and coworkers on the new job, and unfortunately, some of these people might be difficult to work with or annoying. Give your teen a few tips to show respect to their new colleagues:

  • Be polite. Do your best to ignore coworkers who are negative or make harsh comments. If things get too far out of line, report the problem to a supervisor.
  • Don’t talk about your coworkers behind their back, repeat gossip, or spread rumors.
  • Give public credit to colleagues where it is due, like on team projects or group efforts.
  • Don’t interrupt others.
  • Be willing to help coworkers solve problems.
  • Don’t criticize a colleague’s work or put down an idea, opinion, or suggestion they have, especially in a public forum like a meeting.
  • Be honest and reliable. Make yourself someone the rest of the team can depend on!


Handle Customers Professionally

Most businesses have the motto that the customer is always right. Explain to your teen that the motto does not mean that the customer’s view is always correct or realistic, but that the customer should be still treated respectfully no matter how unreasonable their viewpoint seems. Your teen needs to understand that happy customers are extremely important to their employer, and if they can work hard to stay polite, calm, and helpful with every customer, their efforts will likely be rewarded with raises or promotions.

Establish a Good Work Ethic

Two of the most important factors in keeping a job are being on time and making sure you always complete your tasks before you leave for the day. Employers are quick to fire employees that are consistently late or do not finish assignments.

Control the Cellphone

Talk to your teen about cellphone etiquette ahead of time. Encourage your teen to mute his/her cellphone during work and make sure he/she knows it isn’t appropriate to send text messages or be distracted by the phone while on the job.

Maintain a Good Attitude

Explain to your teenager that having a positive attitude makes you a pleasant person to be around. Supervisors notice this type of behavior and usually reward it with more opportunities and raises. They also notice bad attitudes which can result in losing the job.

Establish a Budget

While this skill may not help your teen keep their job, teaching your teen about money now can instill important life skills that will serve him/her well in the future. Discuss finances, teach basic budgeting skills, explain that a percentage of their income is taxed, and help them set financial goals. You can learn more about how to do this by reading our previous blog, Common Money Mistakes Teens Make.

Leave a Reply