Tips for Finding a Job for Teens

Teenage waitress using computer at restaurant counter
••• Inti St. Clair / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Before you start looking for a job, it is important to take some time to decide what you want to do. Even though you may not have experience, there are a variety of positions available for teens.

Consider what you would like to do for a job. For example, if you love animals, check with local veterinarians to see if they are hiring. If you'd prefer working with children, check with your local YMCA (many have after-school child care programs and summer camps) or child care centers. Fast food restaurants and retail establishments rely on workers without experience and are willing to train new employees. Local libraries often hire teens to help put away books. During the summer, amusement parks and summer camps offer a variety of summer jobs for teens.

Take some time to explore options. Keep in mind that your first few jobs will provide a good opportunity to find out what you want to do (and what you don't).

Make sure your paperwork is in order. In some states, if you're under 18, you may need to obtain working papers (officially called Employment/Age Certificates) in order to legally be able to work. Get them ahead of time, so you will be ready to start work once you're hired.

Review When and Where You Can Work

There are laws restricting when you can work and what you can do. Teens hired for non-agricultural employment (which is just about everything other than farm work) must be at least fourteen.

Other restrictions also apply:

  • Ages 14 and 15: During the school year, hours are limited to 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week. On days when there's no school and in the summer, working hours increase to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. There are limits on when you can work, too - no later than 7 p.m. during the school year and no later than 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
  • Ages 16 and 17: There's no limit on hours, but, if you're under 18 you can't work in a job that the Labor Department considers hazardous.

In some states, if you're under eighteen, you may need to obtain working papers (officially called Employment/Age Certificates) in order to legally be able to work. You may be able to get the form at school. Otherwise, you can get one at your state Department of Labor. Check the Employment/Age Certification list to see which guidelines apply to you.

If it's school, check with your Guidance Office. If it's the Department of Labor, check with your state office. Some states, like New York, for example, have special sections of their websites on youth jobs, which will give you the information you need.

Check Out Different Types of Jobs

Once you've got the paperwork in order, consider what you would like to do. Are you interested in working with little kids? Take a look at after-school programs, child care centers, or summer camp jobs. How about working on the beach or the ski slopes, at a park, in the mountains, or at another outdoor job? Consider a job at a museum, a hospital, at a zoo, or at some other organization related to your career aspirations.

The jobs you have during high school will give you some idea of what you might want to do later on. They also might give you an idea about some jobs you absolutely don't want to do!

How to Find a Job

Check with your high school Guidance Office and ask how they can assist with your job search. They may have postings for local businesses, for babysitting or for other part-time positions.

Speak with teachers, family, coaches, friends, parents of friends--anyone and everyone you can think of--and ask for help. Most jobs are found through referrals, and people you know are often happy to assist.

How about starting your own business? Consider your own skills and interests as well as the needs of the local economy where you will be spending your summer. Possible ventures include babysitting, lawn mowing, house painting, designing, and marketing T-shirts, caring for pets while people are on vacation, car detailing, etc.

Online Job Searching

Start your online job search by visiting the sites that focus on teen job opportunities. Searching, for example, by type of position and location will generate a list of openings. There's also a list of national employers that hire part-time workers.

Employers in fields like retail and hospitality often are very interested in hiring teens and are willing to provide training. Search by the category of employment you're interested in. This will generate some more leads. These types of employers often don't advertise, so check with the stores or restaurants in your town to see if they have openings.

Don't forget to check the Employment Services job listings and the Help Wanted ads in your newspaper. Small local papers like The Pennysaver usually have listings too.

Teen Job Interview Tips

Next, make sure you dress appropriately, are ready to complete an application, and are prepared for an on-the-spot interview.

Before you head out to your interviews, review these student job interview questions and samples answers, so you are ready to respond to the interviewer.

Before Accepting a Job Offer

There are good jobs for teens, and there are not-so-good and even awful jobs for teens. Before you say "yes" to a job offer, make sure the company is legitimate. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints.

Be aware that the Department of Labor has rules and regulations about when teens can, and can't work, as well as what type of job you can do. Make sure the employer is complying with the law.

Decide whether this is a job you really want to do. Don't accept it if you don't feel comfortable with the work, with the environment, or with the boss or other employees. If this doesn't work out, there will be another offer. Consider whether the hours will fit into your school and activity schedule.

Consider volunteering opportunities. They're an excellent way to give back to your community while doing work that is fulfilling and productive.