Having a job as a teenager can teach teens responsibility as well as give them self-worth. Finding a job you are interested in at a young age can lead to different career paths, or just as important, you can learn about a field that you find you have no interest in. Potential employers and colleges want to see candidates that participate in their community. Even if working a part-time job isn’t up your alley, finding odd jobs around the neighborhood or volunteering can be great learning opportunities.
The Learning Liftoff team came together and reminisced about some of our favorite jobs while we were teens. Whether we were interested in enhancing our career or just looking to earn some pocket money, we found that our first working experiences taught us more than we could have hoped for.
Great Jobs for Teens
I worked as an Impact member at Hollister Co., and worked in the stockroom helping maintain inventory. This position helped me to understand all that it takes to operate a successful store because I was part of the team who managed merchandise in all of its entirety (sizes, quantity, etc.), and I was able to sit in on many management meetings that involved the buying process, markdowns, and more. As a member of the Impact team, we were responsible for setting up the store when new inventory arrived, which offered a valuable learning experience in regards to the shopper’s experience. Thanks to my experience, I try not to destroy table displays when looking for my size, and hang up clothes I try on instead of leaving it for the employees.
— Brittany Collins, Community Editor
My first job during my high school years was working as a cashier at Kmart. The pay was good (double pay on holidays!) and it taught me the responsibility and discipline involved in having a job. My next high school job was working in a neighborhood movie theater, making popcorn and selling the food and drinks. Unlike my Kmart job, this position did not pay well but included other benefits, like all-you-can-eat popcorn, free movies, and plenty of free time to chat with co-workers and even do some occasional homework.
— Elizabeth Street, Writer
When I was getting ready to graduate high school and regularly visiting my academic advisor about college preparations, I came across a job board with a post for an office assistant with a major insurance company in the area. I’m glad I applied, because the experience taught me many great things about becoming a responsible adult, as well as earn a decent amount of money which was the boost I needed to start driving my own car.
It was the first job interview I’d ever had. I researched best practices and ended up buying a new shirt and tie to wear. Fortunately, I did well enough in the interview to get the job. Since the office was only open until 5pm on weekdays, and I was finishing my senior year of high school, I had to take a free period at the end of each day so I could work 2:30-5:00pm, and I needed time to get home from school, change into my slacks, shirt, and tie, and get to the office on time. I did this for a few months, which helped me learn how to be quick and efficient with my time, and to be punctual under any circumstances.
I did a lot of data entry in a custom MS Access program created by one of my colleagues. She was also nice enough to teach me some of the basics of MS Access, which helped me a great deal a few years later when I took a job in college and helped the owner of a furniture retailer build and maintain his customer database.
The job gave me a great understanding of what it was like to work in an office atmosphere, but most of all, I feel it helped me learn time management better than anything else could have at the time.
— Scott Holm, Technical Editor
My first job was working the register and phones at a pizza place. I was 17 years old and worked there my senior year of high school. The best parts were free pizza, working with my friends, and building a fort out of pizza boxes (it was a slow day). The interaction with customers taught me the value of exceptional customer service. I also learned proper work place phone etiquette and how to manage my time and the money that I earned.
— Sarah Mills, Social Media Coordinator
One summer in high school, I worked on the maintenance crew at an outdoor musical theater. I had a tough-as-nails boss named Smitty who worked us all to the bone. It was hard, unpleasant labor. We cleaned the 3,000 seat theater and the men’s and women’s bathrooms after every performance and worked on all kinds of dirty, difficult, and in some cases dangerous projects on the grounds. Like digging trenches for a new drainage system and demolishing some old sheds using sledgehammers and pickaxes.
I was the only one on the crew who planned to go to college. The rest of the boys wanted to go into construction. The experience made me more motivated to excel in my schooling, because I never wanted to do that kind of work again.
— Michael Solow, Consulting Editor
I had several jobs when I was in high school. I was a waitress at a restaurant, which was great for socializing and building math and customer service skills as well as juggling many tasks at once. But I jumped ship for a movie theater because they allowed me to work only on weekends so that I could participate in cheerleading practices and swim team workouts before and after school during the week. I took tickets, sold concessions, and cleaned the theaters with one of those broom-and-dust pan combos they still carry around today. The only down side was the smell of the trash we’d have to haul out at the end of the shift.
— Deanna Glick, Senior Editor
Newspaper: Hone skills you want to improve.
When I was in high school, I dreamed of one day becoming a journalist. My journalism teacher at the time stressed to our class the value of working hard and starting with small writing gigs to help build a portfolio. Taking my teacher’s advice, I pitched the editor of the town’s local newspaper with the idea of becoming the paper’s student columnist. After submitting a few writing samples and having my journalism teacher vouch for me, I was hired. The pay was minimal, and in the beginning it was hard work because I had never written for a legitimate publication before (besides the school newspaper).
Looking back at my time as a student columnist, I truly believe that the experience was invaluable. My columns were published twice a month for two years and by the time I graduated, I had a sizable portfolio of published pieces which I used to help land college writing internships with MTV.com, Washingtonpost.com and Shop Etc magazine.
— Sarah K., Marketing Manager
The first job that I had was working the courtesy/ front desk of a hospital. We would run supplies from one side of the hospital to the other, assist patients being transported around the hospital, direct people where they needed to go, and help people being discharged out of the hospital.
I used to be a very shy kid who was always quiet and kept to myself. I quickly lost my fear of speaking to strangers. The better I was at my job, the more praise and thanks I got, the more confidence I gained that carried over to my social interactions with friends and peers.
— Paul Merced, Design Editor
Like many teenagers, I earned money in high school and my first years of college as a babysitter/nanny. It was a fun job and it allowed me to make better money than I could have in just about any other job available to me at the time, plus the hours were flexible. I was a former homeschooler and already familiar with K12’s online school program. Since several of the families I nannied for were also homeschoolers or enrolled in an online school, I would often step in as substitute Learning Coach to complete lessons with the kids when mom or dad couldn’t. It was a great arrangement both for me, and for the parents I worked for.
— Ashley MacQuarrie, Associate Editor
Living in New Jersey I was able to work at a local gas station/auto body shop. While it may sound less than glamorous I learned how to be responsible by following a schedule and making my own budget with the wages I earned. I also learned valuable skills that I still utilize today, like how to jump a dead battery, change oil and brake pads and how to patch a flat tire. Plus the flexible hours gave me time to work on school work when the station wasn’t busy.
— Peter Spain, Assistant Editor
Hopefully this list of jobs for teens has inspired your child to get motivated in joining the work force. Gaining experience early can help guide their educational and professional career in the future.