So, I did another workshop for my teens last night, and this time the topic was how to get a job. 15 kids showed up and while I’ll admit it was a struggle because they were even more rambunctious than usual, I feel pretty good about the outcome. 4 kids even asked me at the end for my full notes to take home, and one of them had brought copies of the resume we made together a couple of weeks ago to show the group.

In case anyone else wants to do a similar presentation (or if you’re a teen yourself, looking for some tips!), here’s everything I’ve got to say on the subject.

Before I get to my notes, I have to give major props to The Balance for having by far the most comprehensive website on the matter of helping teens apply for/get jobs, write their resumes and cover letters, even how best to ask someone to be a professional reference. So kudos to y’all, guys. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

There’s also a cool and free job application lesson plan available to print out, and if you’re in Rhode Island, then you’ll want to check out the Child Labor Brochure and Poster.

Before You Start Looking for a Job

Think about what you’d like to do and explore your options

  • Like animals? Check with vets and shelters
  • Like children? Check with the YMCA or the library or after-school child care providers or summer camps
  • Restaurants (bussers, dishwashers, hosts, servers) and fast food joints
  • Amusement parks
  • Recreation Departments and summer camps

Online Presence

  • Make sure that what you’ve put online is not traceable
  • Clean up your Instagram, your Youtube, your Facebook, everything
  • Employers do look, and it can make a huge difference


  • Get working papers from your school
    • Bring proof of age, like a birth or baptismal certificate, driver’s license, passport, school records
    • If you’re 14-15, you get a Special Limited Permit to Work
    • If you’re 16-17, you get a Certificate of Age
  • Review where and when you can work
    • No more than 8-9 hours per day or 40-48 hours per week, depending on your age
    • Not before 6am or after 9pm or 11:30pm on school days

Don’t Be Shy

  • Tell everyone you know you’re looking for work
  • Speak with teachers, librarians, family, coaches, friends, parents of friends, guidance office
    • Most jobs are found through referrals
  • Ask for references (at least 3-4)

Start Your Own Business

  • Babysitting and pet care
  • Lawn mowing, snow shoveling, landscaping
  • House painting
  • Designing shirts
  • Car washing/detailing

Where to Look

  • Snagajob
  • Coolworks
  • SimplyHired
  • Craigslist but BE VERY CAREFUL

Once You Start Applying

  • Apply a lot
  • Keep an open mind, especially if you really need that paycheck
    • Be flexible, with interest and hours if you can
    • Even if a job is not your first choice, it may turn out better than you expected, or at the very least you’ll learn the sort of things you don’t want to do with your life
    • You have to pay your dues; if you don’t put in the work now, you’ll just have to do it later on when it’s harder
  • Don’t suffer abuse!

Make a Resume

  • Use a template or example
    • Available in Google Drive, Microsoft Word, and to download online
    • Go for something simple but eye-catching
  • Make one giant resume and then parse it down and tailor it for every job you apply to
    • Check the job requirements and use those as clues for what to prioritize and include
    • It shouldn’t be longer than one page, not until you’re truly old, older than even me
  • You have less than 20 seconds to make a good impression


  • Positive personal characteristics (quick learner, team player, dependable, responsible)
  • Technical and computer skills
  • Coursework relevant to your desired profession
  • Educational accomplishments (include GPA if it’s over 3.0)
  • Skills and experience gained during internships or summer jobs
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Leadership experience
  • Other related accomplishments (awards, recognition, competitions won, etc.)
  • Work history (include unpaid/volunteer work if it relates to the position)
    • You can’t edit it at that point, but it freezes the formatting in place so what you see on your screen will be what your potential employer sees on theirs


Cover Letters

  • Your chance to pitch yourself to your future employer before you even meet them
    • Say which job you want, why you want it, what you like about the company, what you can do for the company, why you’re the best candidate
  • Font choices: Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Verdana, Times New Roman, in 10 or 12 point
    • No novelty fonts, no script or handwriting styles, no emojis, no capital letters, no bolding/underlining/italicizing
    • Not too many exclamation points, if any at all
  • Single space, with a space between every paragraph/section of the letter
  • Proof read
    • You can’t edit it at that point, but it freezes the formatting in place so what you see on your screen will be what your potential employer sees on theirs

Job Application Tips

  • Dress appropriately, even if you’re just popping in and picking up
  • Be prepared for an on-the-spot interview – you may be meeting your future boss and future coworkers, so act accordingly and bring your A Game
  • Be polite, mind your manners, don’t take up too much time
    • “I’m very interested in working here and I was wondering if you were hiring?”
    • “I heard from so-and-so that you were hiring and I was wondering if I could pick up an application?”
  1. If you can take the application home, then make a copy for your records because most ask for the same basic information and often in the same order and it’ll just make your life easier
  2. Neatness counts – use a pen, use your best handwriting, take your time
  3. If you reach a section that you cannot answer, don’t leave it blank – write NA (Not Applicable) to show that you’ve seen it and there’s a reason for not answering it
  4. Check your spelling and grammar and have someone else review it as well if you can for a fresh pair of eyes – put your finger on every word to make sure it is okay, even if you’re using spell check
  5. Emphasize the job responsibilities of your past job that are most relevant – for example, I only formally work as an Adult Reference Librarian twice a month but if I were to apply for an Adult Reference Librarian position, I’d hype that
  6. Include references to perfect attendance and punctuality if possible
  7. Include honors or awards, like a high GPA or Honor Society membership, to prove a solid work ethic
  8. Keep a list of references, but always ask first and always alert people if you’re listing them for a particular job so they know to expect a call.
    1. If you haven’t interacted with them for a while, check in and make sure they’re okay with you still listing them
    2. I’ve been using the same person as a reference since I was 15 but I still always ask and alert her
  9. Have the full names, job titles, and contact information for your references ready
    1. Some people prefer to use their work email or phone number over their personal info, so ask first
  10. Check your phone, check your messages!
    1. You don’t want to miss out on a job offer because you forgot to check your voicemail

Before the Interview

  • Practice ahead of time, with yourself and with friends or family
  • Go over common questions
  • Prepare your own questions for them


During the Interview

  • The Grandma Rule: if your grandmother would like your outfit, you are dressed appropriately
  • Make sure your hair, nails, BO and breath are in good order
  • Minimal makeup
  • Give a firm handshake and smile
  • Make eye contact, show interest

After the Interview

  • Say thank you
  • Ask when you might expect to hear back
  • Send a thank you note afterwards
    • Handwritten is best
  • Check in if the allotted time has passed and you haven’t heard yet

Once You’re Hired

  • Be on your best behavior, always
  • Live up to your own hype
  • Ask questions, pay attention, be safe
  • Choose your work friends carefully and don’t goof off or get baited by them into doing extra work, punching them in when they’re not there, covering for them, etc.
  • Try to stay in the job for at least a season before leaving, unless you’re truly suffering
    • Employers like to see commitment, and the longer you stay, the more likely you are to get a recommendation from your boss or supervisor
  • Make sure you give at least 2 weeks’ notice when you’re ready to quit



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