Do you ever find yourself thinking about your dream career, working in a certain industry you’re passionate about, and maybe even get paid to do it?
Most teens have an idea or two about how they’d like to make a living. But they often speak of those career dreams as if they belonged to a far-off future.
Here’s the truth: Your dream career begins today!
If you’re a teen, you can get a job and start gaining valuable work and life experience right away. Now, it might not be your dream job to start out. But if you see it as a learning opportunity, your first job has the potential to lead you almost anywhere. It could even make the difference in helping you get your foot in the door of whatever industry you’re planning to work in long term.
So what are the secrets to success in your first job? Let me drop some knowledge on you.
How to Nail Your Interview
No matter where you’re applying for work, you’re almost definitely going to go through some kind of an interview. Even if it’s just an informal meeting to shake hands and answer a few questions, this is an important moment and one you don’t want to take casually. A few tips:
- Dress neatly. Avoid loud colors or strong fragrances. Anything too attention-grabbing in your appearance will distract whoever’s interviewing you and could keep you from getting the job.
- When you meet the business owner or manager, keeping strong and steady eye contact is a big plus. Offer a firm and friendly handshake. And listen politely to every question, trying your best to answer each one thoroughly.
- No matter what you’re asked, give honest answers. Any manager will appreciate hearing the truth from you. Remember you’re trying to make a good impression, but there’s never any reason to mislead someone just to get a job. And in many cases, if your dishonesty were found out, it could lead directly to getting you fired.
- Feel free to mention absolutely every kind of work you’ve done, even if you’ve never drawn a paycheck. Businesses that employ teens are used to hiring students with little or no formal job experience. But if you’ve ever babysat, done lawn care, or sold anything in your neighborhood, let the hiring manager know that. Anything you did to earn money shows initiative and will put you in good standing.
- If you hear this question: “Why do you want this job? Why should we hire you?” Don’t say, “Because my parents are making me apply.” That’s not a very compelling reason to hire anyone. Find out something about the business ahead of time and mention what you know. If your family does business with the employer, play that up in a friendly way. For example, you could say, “I’m interested in earning some money of my own, and I really like the reputation this business has for providing quality service.”
- A job interview is no time to fiddle with your phone. Checking social media or texting looks unprofessional and could make you seem uninterested in the position. It’s a good idea to leave your phone outside or turn it off during your conversation.
Keep a Healthy Balance of School and Work
Now that you’ve gotten hired, we need to talk about balance. As great as it is to earn your own money and get employment experience, school is still your top priority. After all, you have to have a high school diploma to enter most career fields, and in many cases you’ll want a college degree. No amount of money is worth sacrificing your grades.
For those of you who are in school, I recommend working somewhere from 15–20 hours. As you get into the job, you’ll probably find that the discipline required to get through your shifts and still complete your studies will boost your performance in school. But anything above 15–20 hours could stress you out and start to hurt your grades.
Tips on the Job
Whatever job you take on, there are certain traits almost every manager or team will look for and appreciate in your work. Here are some ways to get noticed:
- Be friendly to customers and coworkers as you go about your business.
- No matter what you’re asked to do, give 100% effort to doing it well.
- Keep up the strong eye contact you used in your interview when you’re talking with and serving customers.
- It’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Most people will be happy to jump in and help a new employee.
- Never hesitate to ask for help or more information when you need it to complete a task.
- Don’t worry about making a few mistakes—no one expects you to do the job exactly right when you’re starting out! Instead, be coachable. That way, you can learn what went wrong and get it done right the next time.
- Keep a couple of things in mind when you receive your first paycheck. Depending on how your employer schedules their pay, you might be seeing only your first week’s pay. So you might not know what a full two weeks’ paycheck is worth until you get your second paycheck.
- Remember your employer will deduct taxes from your check, and you can expect it to be about 10% of what you earned. It’s worth a minute of your time to look over the check stub to find out how much you paid in taxes.
Keep on Dreaming
I’ve had many different jobs during my career. But no matter what kind of work I’ve done, I’ve always tried to work hard and learn from whatever I was doing. Eventually that hard work and focus taught me that my true calling was in helping others.
For years I’ve been passionate about helping young people to pursue their dreams. And I’ve been fortunate enough to find a career that allows me to do just that, every day! As you take on your first job, stay alert to career opportunities that might pop up along the way.
About the Author – Since 2003, Anthony ONEAL has helped thousands of students make good decisions with their money, relationships and education to live a well-balanced life. Now Anthony has joined Ramsey Solutions to spread this encouraging message to students nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. His youth conferences, concerts and events have drawn enormous crowds, and he’s spoken for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest Youth Ministry, television personality, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Rory Jones. Anthony has also appeared on Fox and Friends, CNN and TBN. Read more and check out Anthony’s other articles…
You can also check out and Subscribe to Anthony’s Awesome YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/anthonyoneal .