Casual work and part-time jobs for teenagers: why they’re good
In the middle to later years of secondary school, your child might be interested in part-time or casual work.
Your child could work formally for an employer – for example, as a shop assistant, café worker or lifeguard. Or your child could work informally for family and friends – for example, by mowing lawns, babysitting, selling homemade crafts or working in the family business.
A part-time job can:
- build your child’s sense of responsibility and independence
- boost your child’s self-esteem, confidence and overall wellbeing
- help your child discover their skills and interests and learn how to use them in a workplace
- develop your child’s life and work skills, including time management, commitment, problem-solving, decision-making, and social and teamwork skills
- introduce your child to like-minded peers and positive adult role models
- give your child the chance to earn and value their own money
- help your child learn about finding a work-life balance.
If your child is keen on a part-time job, it’s a good idea to discuss the pros and cons together. This can help your child decide whether working while studying at secondary school might be for them.
Helping teenagers find part-time jobs or casual work
Here are some ways to help your child find their first part-time job:
- Encourage your child to ask family, friends and neighbours whether they have any jobs they need help with, like gardening, dog walking or babysitting.
- Work with your child on a list of local employers and organisations they could approach – for example, local shops, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs, schools and supermarkets.
- Look online for jobs in your area – for example, on job seeker websites or in Facebook groups.
- Look for ‘position vacant’ notices in local shop windows.
- Encourage your child to apply to a lot of places. You can explain that people often need to put in many job applications before they find a job.
Helping teenagers find suitable jobs
Teenagers often don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to first part-time jobs. But it’s still good for your child to think about jobs that will suit their family circumstances, lifestyle, abilities, skills and so on.
You and your child could consider the following issues when your child is looking for part-time jobs:
- Work hours – will your child be able to balance work with school, hobbies and other things? Will it be daytime work or night-time work?
- Location – how will your child travel safely to and from work? Will you be available to drive your child if needed?
- Employment status – will there be guaranteed hours and ongoing work? Will your child need to work at short notice or be on call?
- Physical activity – will the job involve a lot of heavy lifting, standing or sitting?
- Workmates – will your child be working alone or with others?
- Supervision and training – will your child get supervision and training to help them develop skills and stay safe at work?
Your child’s first part-time job probably won’t be for life. Most people have many different jobs and career changes during their working lives. But the experience of a first part-time job might help your child decide what they want to do with work and study in the future.
Job applications, resumés and cover letters for teenagers
For most job applications, your child will need to write a resumé and a cover letter. Sometimes they might need to fill out a standard application form.
For secondary school students without a lot of work experience or qualifications, a first resumé could list:
- school results
- school activities and achievements, like school council, debating, leadership programs, vocational training programs and so on
- volunteer and community activities and club memberships
- any work experience, including things like babysitting, gardening and so on.
You might need to help your child with their resumé, cover letters and job applications. Your child’s careers counsellor might also be able to help. Or you might know someone who regularly hires people and who could help your child or give your child feedback on their resumé.
There are many online resources that can help your child prepare their resumé, write job applications and prepare for job interviews. Job Jumpstart and Youth Central are good places to start. These websites also have resources and activities to help your child work out what jobs might suit them.
Job interviews for teenagers
There are several things your child can do to get ready for job interviews.
Ahead of time
- Research the employer’s values, workplace culture, profile in the community, and so on. Also go over the job description. Then think about what the interviewer might ask and prepare matching responses.
- Do practice interviews with friends or family to work on listening to questions without interrupting, answering questions clearly, and using non-verbal communication like handshakes, smiles and eye contact. Ask the practice ‘interviewers’ for feedback afterwards.
- Think of 1-2 questions to ask at the end of the interview. These show that your child is interested in the job. For example, ‘Who will I be working with?’ or ‘What does a typical day in this job look like?’
- Practise asking for the interviewer when they arrive at the interview. Also practise introducing themselves.
- Collect examples of work or experience to bring to the interview – for example, flyers about clubs or events your child is involved with, awards, certificates and so on.
On the day
- Dress appropriately, even if it's a video interview. It’s probably best to wear something conservative or something that matches the employer’s culture. Always make sure clothes are clean and ironed.
- Plan how to get to the interview, and arrive 5-10 minutes early.
If your child is having a video job interview, they’ll need to prepare for setting up and using the video equipment. Here are some ways your child can prepare for this type of interview:
- Practise looking at the camera so they’re making eye contact with the interviewer.
- Find an appropriate place to have the interview. Choose a place that’s quiet and well-lit with a simple, uncluttered background. It should be somewhere private with a door your child can close.
- Get familiar with using the video app or program. For example, check how to share the screen and how to mute and unmute.
- Test video equipment ahead of time with a friend or family relative to identify and fix any problems with equipment, internet or sound.
Employers often look at personal social media pages, like Facebook and Instagram, as part of their selection processes. It’s a good idea to remind your child to check their privacy settings and talk to them about why employers might not like certain types of posts.
Balancing casual work, school and other activities
Teenagers need a balance between study, work and other activities that are good for their development, like physical activity, extracurricular activities and socialising.
Here are ways to help your child balance their part-time job with study and other activities:
- Help your child create a weekly or monthly planner that shows what activities they’ll be doing each day and when.
- Show your child how to break down big assignments or projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, which they can put onto their planner. This will help your child feel in control of their study and work commitments.
- Make sure your child has enough free time and good sleep. This helps your child relax and recharge, giving them the energy they need for school and work.
- Think about how your child’s job can fit into your family routines. For example, if your child works in the evening, could you have family dinners earlier those nights? Routines give your child a sense of stability and can reduce stress when things are busy.
- Stay connected with your child. If your child is busier because of their part-time job, you might have to plan time together. But it’s worth it – teenagers with strong relationships with their parents are better able to develop independence and handle responsibilities.
If you’re worried that your child is taking on too much, there are some signs that things are out of balance. These might include your child being tired, grumpy or stressed and having trouble sleeping. You can also ask your child whether they feel they have the balance right.
If your child needs a better balance, they can tweak their schedule by changing or dropping certain activities. You can help your child decide what to change by looking at what activities are important to them and what they’d like to do more or less of.
Teenage employment and the law
In Australia, teenage employment laws differ across states and territories.
If you and your child know the laws in your state or territory, you can check that your child’s employment arrangements are fair and legal. This includes things like the minimum legal age to start part-time or casual work, hours of work, supervision, pay rates and protection against discrimination.
If your child’s rights and needs aren’t being met, you might need to talk them through how to approach their manager or employer with their concerns. It’s good if your child can suggest some positive options and solutions. You can help your child practise what to say. You might also need to advocate for your child.
If your child’s problems at work are affecting their health and wellbeing, it might be best for your child to look at other options. For example, your child might want to look for another job or take a break from work.
You can check the laws in your state and territory by going to Youth Law Australia or calling 1800 953 673 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm). And you can go to Fair Work Ombudsman – Young workers and students to learn more about teenage employment rights and rules.