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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 2000

Finance Chapter 3

[Times art: Teresanne Cossetta]
It's Thursday afternoon, and everyone Tamikia has called since she got home from school is too busy with a part-time job to hang out with her.

Shalana is working with 3-year-olds at a day-care center, Maria is helping her aunt get ready for their food concession at the weekend flea market and Conrad -- who just turned 16 two weeks ago -- got a job at the movie theater. Tamikia has been thinking more and more about getting a job, too. She's not quite sure what kind of job she wants or even how to apply for a job.

Instead of getting started on homework, Tamikia decides to spend a few minutes brainstorming about whether a part-time job is really something she wants to pursue.

By the time high school students are turning 16, many are thinking seriously about finding part-time jobs. Working, even part time, is a different kind of commitment than most teens have experience with. It requires being organized, staying focused and being dependable at work -- in addition to all of the other activities a student participates in.

How do you know if getting a part-time job is right for you? What kind of a job would you want? How much money can you expect to earn?

Balancing responsibilities at home, at school, and with friends can be tough; a job means even more responsibility. Since you can't add more hours to a day, adding the responsibility of a part-time job means carefully considering where it will fit in and how you can sustain your efforts toward all the important things in your life. Before you begin looking for a job, take time to think about what you want from a job and how you will maintain a balance in your life if you get a job. Here are some important things to consider:

What are your reasons for wanting a job? For the money, for something interesting to do, to gain experience?

How much time do you have each week for work? How much time is taken up each week by school work and studies, after-school activities such as sports and clubs, volunteer activities, responsibilities at home?

Money Stuff: Get it! Spend it! Keep It!

Introduction and previous chapters

Do you have a certain time of day or day of week when your schedule is free? Is this time predictable, so that your employer would really be able to count on you? When is this time and how many hours do you have available

Do you have reliable transportation to get to and from work? What will your transportation be?

Looking for a job

Typical jobs for teenagers include working in fast-food restaurants, retail stores and stocking and bagging groceries in a supermarket. When you start looking for a job, ask your friends, neighbors and adults you know about any opportunities they know about. Is a new business opening and looking for help? Is there a place you enjoy shopping that might need some help? Does a retail store need extra help for the holidays? These are good ways to get started.

A job search has a better chance of success if you are organized and prepared. That means there's some work to do before you fill out your first application form. Here are some things you will need to have with you when you apply:

A pen and paper -- it is embarrassing (and makes a bad impression) to have to ask a potential employer for a pen to complete the job application form.

Your complete address and phone number.

Your Social Security number.

The names, addresses and phone numbers for at least three people who are willing to be references for you. Employers usually ask you to list people who are not relatives. They can be neighbors, faculty or staff at school, someone from church or an after-school activity. They need to be adults who know you well and who are willing to give you a good recommendation. IMPORTANT TIP: Do not list someone as a reference on an application without his or her permission. Explain that you are applying for a job and would like to list them as a reference. Ask if they would be able to give you a good recommendation.

The complete name, address, and phone number for the school you attend.

The complete name, address, phone number and contact person for any job you have already had. With permission, you can include the name(s) of informal employers you have had. For example, if you worked as a baby sitter every day for a summer (an important and responsible job), you can ask the mom or dad from that family if it is OK to include that job on your resume and job application forms.

job applying chart

Making contact with potential employers

It is not a good idea to just walk into a potential employer and ask for an application. Some companies have certain days of the week or times of day when they accept applications. Or even if they don't have that kind of rule, some companies are just busy certain times of day. Unannounced visitors can be a hassle if business is busy, and hassling potential employers is not a good way to get a job. So call ahead before you visit. Explain that you would like to apply for a job. Find out when you should come in and who you should speak to.

Caution: Some employers will hire students only if they are over the age of 16; some require employees be at least 18 years old. Ask about this when you are applying.

Remember to dress appropriately -- even if you're just filling out the application. First impressions do count. What kind of clothes does the job require? If you're applying for retail work, take time before you apply to notice how the sales staff dresses. If you're applying to lead sports for an after-school program, that will require a different kind of clothing. If you're applying to answer phones or do filing in an office, take time to think about what your potential co-workers will be wearing. No matter what the work environment is, always be neat and clean. It is also important to find out if the job will require special clothing or a uniform. Sometimes new employees are required to buy uniforms for the job. If so, you will need to plan ahead for these expenses and make sure this is something you are able to do before you accept the job.

Watch out for the trap!

Don't get so excited about the prospect of earning extra cash that you get caught in a common trap.

Researchers report that many teenagers start working for extra money and then find they HAVE to work because of debt and other obligations that they incur after they start working. For example, many teenagers said that they began working so that they could get a car, but later found they had to work even more hours than they originally planned to maintain their cars.

Even worse, some teens are shouldering BIG credit card debt for car repairs, entertainment and clothing expenses they thought they could afford. But the bills come in faster than the paychecks, and these teens are in financial trouble. There's no financial freedom in a situation like this!


Follow-up on job applications

It's rare to simply fill out an application and get a job. Usually, it takes more work than that. Here are a few tips to following up and landing a job.

Get the name of the manager or supervisor. (And write it down -- remember, you brought pen and paper along with you!) This is how you know whom to follow up with. Also jot down the name of anyone you met while you were applying, so you have that information for later reference.

Thank you notes. Making personal contact with a potential employer is always better than taking the application and dropping it off later because it gives you a chance to make a good impression. If you met a manager or supervisor when you were applying, write them a short note to thank them for talking with you. A thank you note also gives you a chance to remind the employer who you are and why you'd be good for the job.

Call or stop by! If a company isn't looking for help when you apply, keep your name at the top of their list by calling the manager or supervisor in charge of hiring (not more than weekly) or stopping by (only during their regular application times). That way you can see whether your application is still being considered or if the their hiring needs have changed. Persistence is a plus with many employers. Although you don't want to be annoying, showing that you are really interested counts a lot.

Keep a list. It is important to keep track of the details of your job search. After you've applied for a job, make a written record of the company you applied to, the date you applied, the person you spoke with. It is also useful to jot down the telephone number, so that you can make a follow-up call if needed.

Tamikia thought long and hard about the time she would be available to spend at a part-time job. She worked hard for her grades and was involved in several after-school clubs and activities. She also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Clubs one afternoon a week. She was pretty envious of her friends who had the extra money from their part-time jobs, but she didn't think she could commit to working a regular schedule. Instead, Tamikia decided to concentrate on earning some extra money through odd jobs such as lawn moving and baby sitting. This was a good solution for her because she could have some extra money and still keep her schedule flexible.

Working doesn't always mean for someone else

Instead of taking a part-time job at a company, student entrepreneurs take things into their own hands and successfully create their own employment opportunities. There are a surprising number of entrepreneurial opportunities for teenagers. Here are some ideas to consider. See if you can come up with more.

House cleaning

Pet care (walking/feeding/grooming)

Car washing

Music lessons

Setting up computers and giving basic computer lessons

Creating Web sites

Lawn mowing

Baking goodies (for holidays/parties)


Baby sitting

Cleaning windows and gutters


More independenc

Adapt the schedule to fit your needs

Work as much or as little as you want

Do something that you're really interested in

Maybe make more money -- $20 an hour for mowing a lawn beats the minimum wage!


Your income depends on your effort

Marketing -- you have to find the customers

More responsibility -- no boss means you're responsible for getting the job done and keeping your customers happy

Can be lonely -- you don't have co-workers to hang out with

Your part-time job: volunteer or for pay?

Some jobs give you a paycheck, but some jobs offer more than money; they offer experience and an up-close view of many different kinds of work. Volunteer jobs offer the chance for community service as well as the opportunity to learn about jobs you might be interested in.

Many community-based organizations are looking for volunteers. Elementary schools and after-school programs such as Girls and Boys Clubs need tutors for younger students. Libraries can use help restocking shelves and helping visitors find books. Food banks, homeless shelters, and hospitals all rely heavily on volunteer support. If you're thinking about getting a job and your main reason is to gain valuable work experience, consider a volunteer job in community service.

Volunteer jobs offer other things, too. Sometimes volunteer jobs help students learn more about careers they are considering. Volunteer jobs can be a kind of internship, introducing students to the real world of a profession they are interested in and providing experience that will help them decide if they want to continue in that kind of work. Answering phones in an architect's office, delivering cards and messages in a hospital or addressing envelopes in the newsroom of your local newspaper can give you a better idea of what work is really like -- and if you would really like it. Volunteer work can be listed on your resume, just like paid work. It can also be a source for letters of recommendation when you apply for school or other jobs. And sometimes volunteer positions become paid positions.

* * *

-- Money Stuff was developed by Fonda Anderson and the Florida Council on Econcomic Education. Sharon Hodges and Barry Freidman are authors of Financial Freedom, a booklet on personal finance available free through the council. For more information on the council's StreetSmarts(TM) programs for teachers and students, call (813) 289-8489.

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