Job Search Tips for High School Students

High school girl sitting on sofa looking for a job on her laptop
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When you're in high school and haven't worked much or at all, it can be hard to find a job. In fact, teenagers have a really high unemployment rate.

There are a few reasons why finding work as a teenager can be challenging: 

  • Experience: If you're looking for your first job, you may not be able to easily show you have the necessary skills and experience. 
  • Hours: Sometimes employers need candidates who can work late nights or during school hours, which may not be doable for students. 
  • Personal qualities: Interviewers may feel concerned that teenagers lack responsibility, maturity, and other key personal qualities needed to perform in the role. 

But don't get discouraged by these factors. If you are a high school student looking for a job, there are plenty of things you can do to overcome those obstacles, get your application noticed, and get yourself hired. 

Consider a Variety of Job Options

Don't limit yourself to certain types of jobs. This is a tough market for young job seekers, and you may not be able to find a job doing what you really want to do. If you need a paycheck, keep an open mind when it comes to what you'll do to earn that paycheck.

Seasonal jobs, like camp counselor roles or retail hiring around the winter holidays, are often particularly open to hire teens.

If you were initially interested in a job working in retail, for example, consider roles in food services as well. You can also look for office-focused jobs. 

The more flexibility you have, the more opportunities you'll be able to apply for. Plus, even if the job wasn't your first choice, it may turn out to be better than you expected.

Check Out Companies That Hire Young People

There are some companies that traditionally hire younger workers. Here's information on the types of first jobs that students often work at, and the companies that hire 16 year-olds.

Consider Volunteering

Even though you won't get a paycheck, volunteering is a great way to add valuable work experience to your resume, which will help you find a paid position in the future. Check with your high school guidance office and with local non-profit organizations for volunteer opportunities. 

Check the Rules for Teen Job Seekers

Depending on how old you are, there are only certain jobs you can do and hours you can work. Check the Child Labor Law (you count as a child if you're under 18 when it comes to working) regulations to see how they apply to you. The minimum age you can work at paid non-agricultural employment is 14.

In order to work legally in some states, workers under eighteen may need to obtain working papers, which are officially called "Employment/Age Certificates." If your location requires them, you'll need to show them to an employer when you're hired.

Write a Resume

Even though it may not be required by employers, a resume can help you stand out from the competition. Even though you may not have much information to include, a resume shows that you're serious about your job search.

Make sure to include extracurricular activities and volunteer work on your resume. 

Start Your Job Hunt Close to Home

One good way to get experience when you are a high school student is to start by working for friends and neighbors. Babysitting, mowing lawns, landscaping, yard work, shoveling snow, and pet sitting all can be included on your resume. In addition, the people you work for will be able to give you a reference when you apply for other jobs.

Advertise Your Job Search

The most important thing you can do is advertise the fact that you’re looking for a job. You never know who might be looking for their next employee.

Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Many jobs aren't advertised, and you may be able to get a good job lead from a friend or family member.

TIP: The more people you tell, the better your chances are of finding a job. 

Check With the Guidance Office

Your high school guidance office staff should be able to help you with job listings and jobsearch advice. There may be a bulletin board with job postings, a notebook with listings, and/or an online job board. They might also have internship opportunities, which may (or may not) be paid, but will give you valuable experience.

Job Search Online and In Person

Check websites that list local job openings. You can use the job search engines like Indeed.com to search by keyword part-time and your location to find job listings in your city or town. Check your local Chamber of Commerce website (Google your city/town name and Chamber of Commerce to find it) to see if they list jobs. There are lots of sources of employment opportunities, both for part-time during the school year and for great summer jobs.

Also, try stopping in at local businesses, and check to see if they are hiring. In some cases, the business may put a sign in the window. If there isn’t one, check with the manager anyway. Your motivation and self-assurance will impress the manager and could land you an interview.

Apply for Lots of Jobs

Job searching is a numbers game. Apply for as many jobs as possible. The more applications you have in, the better your chances are of securing an interview.

Keep applying for jobs, rather than waiting to hear back from one before you try for another position.

Be prepared to complete a job application. Bring all the information you need when you’re applying for jobs online, and have the details handy when you’re filling out online job applications. For most jobs, what you’ll need:

  • Contact information (address and phone number)
  • Educational background
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Skills related to the job
  • Availability (days and hours)
  • Previous jobs and employer contact information (if you have work experience)
  • Salary history (if you have work experience)
  • References (typically three)

Spend as much time as you can applying, and follow up by calling or emailing to check on your application. It will show that you’re actively job searching and interested in the position.

Dress Appropriately

When you are applying inperson for jobs and interviewing, dress appropriately. Use the "Grandma Rule" (if your grandmother would like your interview outfit, then you are dressed properly).

Here's more info on what teens shouldn't wear to job interviewers

Make Sure Your Social Media Is Presentable

Potential employers may search your name online and on social media sites. Make sure they won't find anything that would make them reconsider hiring you.

Be Flexible

Be as flexible as possible when it comes to your availability. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get a job offer. Also, know when you're available for work. Bring a list of the hours you can work with you when you apply in person or go to an interview.