From a Teen Perspective: Finding a job and getting the most out of it

by Dylan Lanier on February 8, 2023

I don’t remember much about my Freshman year, but I’ll never forget when the Virus That Shall Not Be Named completely ruined all of my summer plans. Every camp, every trip, every activity I had scheduled was cancelled, and before I knew it, I was sitting in my room, bored and alone on the first day of summer.

My mom — most likely fed up with my ennui — advised me to get a job. I could make some money, gain experience, and (most importantly) get out of the house and into my community. And so I went to every nearby business to ask if they were hiring. It was nerve-wracking and plenty of people shot me down. But then I found a poké place in need of someone like me, a dedicated part-time worker willing to learn and grow every day.

My experience wasn’t perfect. I stacked forks for three hours just to get a 10-minute break. Customers sometimes yelled at me when I accidentally messed up orders. I discovered that one never gets used to the smell of garbage despite taking out the trash twice a day. But I wouldn’t have spent my summer any other way.

I improved my abilities to communicate and work with others, respond to customer needs, understand the basics of business, and appropriately manage a stable new source of income all while building up my resume — and bank account.

As I well know, the working world can be tough for teens to break into, so here’s my basic guide to landing a job and getting the most out of it:

  • Do your research: Search for positions online on sites like Indeed or visit businesses in main areas like Santa Cruz Avenue. Ask for job descriptions to determine which opportunities suit you best — remember, though, you can’t be too picky!
  • Freshen up: Always be sure to make a good first impression. Do your hair, wear professional clothes (a.k.a anything besides a hoodie and sweats), and try to appear your most presentable to your possible employer.
  • Be you: At the interview, respond to questions clearly, make eye contact, and ask questions of your own to show interest. That being said, this is the part where you get to show why you specifically deserve the job, so include personal anecdotes that show your character, why you want the position, and anything else to prove that you’re the right person for the job!
  • Be patient: You probably won’t hear back right away. Follow up with thank-you emails and check-ins after the interview but don’t get discouraged if they don’t respond. They might be busy, and even if they do end up turning you down, there are plenty of other fish in the sea! Keep looking and eventually you’ll find the right match.
  • Always show up on time: Once you start, make sure to arrive at least a few minutes before your shift. Remain attentive throughout your shift to perform at your best and improve your reputation as an employee.
  • Get comfortable: It can be daunting to begin working in a new environment, especially if it’s your first job, but don’t be afraid to connect with coworkers, try different working styles, and keep going for new opportunities (i.e. shadowing older employees with harder tasks).

While the working world can seem like a scary or unforgiving place, it actually holds a wide range of great opportunities for teenagers to gain experience and get involved with their community! As a high schooler myself, I highly recommend taking the leap of faith and becoming a member of the professional community.

From a Teen Perspective is a new column contributed by Menlo-Atherton High School Junior Dylan Lanier, who has lived in Menlo Park since he was two. He enjoys the town’s local restaurants and libraries as well as nearby running trails.

One Comment

Daryl Camarillo February 09, 2023 at 6:40 am

Dear Daniel,
As a retired business owner, I support the advice you give in this post. In fact, I would often ask potential hires if they had a job while in high school. I found that those candidates had experienced a level of personal growth that could only be gained through work experience at a young age.

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