Finding jobs for 14-16 year olds
April 17, 2009 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Help me help my son find work this summer...

My son recently turned 14. When discussing plans for the summer, he indicated that he would like to find a job, so he can have his own money and some independence. I know in WI kids under 16 can have jobs with limited hours and so on, but I've been completely unsuccessful in finding any listings.

I'm comfortable with him working - he's smart and fairly driven, so I think he could do well. I want to encourage him in this. He's not so interested in a freelance or entrepreneurial thing so much as he is in trading his time and effort for money.

So, hive-mind - how can I find jobs for an earnest young man in Madison, WI ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dish washing at a local restaurant is something I did at around 15. He might try that.
posted by at 12:01 PM on April 17, 2009

I see lots and lots of under-16s at grocery stores around here. They mostly stock shelves and bag groceries.

I know several boys in my neighborhood who babysit, too. I know one mom who regularly hires the teenage boy down the street because her young son prefers him to the teenage girls in the neighborhood.

Lawn-mowing is a big business for teens in my area, as is weed-pulling and general yard maintenance.
posted by cooker girl at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2009

You could talk to people you know and see if they can provide jobs/know anyone that can. A 14-year old kid could make a lot of money doing random things like mowing lawns, cleaning out garages, baby-sitting, etc.
posted by sickinthehead at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2009

Not sure how rural it is where you live, but farms will often need help, especially smaller, less industrial farms. Look into rock picking or milking.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding cooker girl. A lot of places won't hire until you're 16. Grocery stores usually will though. They'll start him as a bagger and he can move up from there. have him check with his school's guidance counselor. Local businesses used to list student-ready jobs in our guidance office. Also, in Ohio they require a work permit if you're under 18. Might want to check on that in your area.

Starting his own business would be best if he's willing to do yard work. There's always lawns to be mowed, leaves to be raked and landscaping to be done.

Are his friends working? What are they doing?
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2009

I worked for a large nursery operation from the time I was 14 until I was about 21. I think basically anything in construction, landscaping, other contractors, etc. is good work for kids that age: you learn how to do a lot of useful things, get familiar with a variety of tools, get physically stronger from the labor, and get to interact with adults that have a lot of knowledge to share but sometimes little formal education.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:19 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I recommend yard work and odd jobs. I did both retail and "landscaping" when I was his age, and I much preferred the outdoor work. Retail is miserable.

Do you have equipment he can use, like a lawnmower and truck?

The nice thing about doing yard work is that as you prove yourself people will give you more and more interesting things to do. That's not the case in retail.

On preview: What Inspector.Gadget said!
posted by diogenes at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2009

Oh yeah, 14 would be a little young for driving a truck. Never mind about that part ;)
posted by diogenes at 12:26 PM on April 17, 2009

I see you're in Madison - can he get a job helping one of the vendors at the Farmer's Market?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:26 PM on April 17, 2009

I'd imagine Madison has quite a few private golf courses. Perhaps he could apply to be a caddy/bag boy/range picker or work on landscape?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 12:27 PM on April 17, 2009

Sorry for the multiple posts. I'm having flashbacks :) When I first started out I did work for older people who had all of the equipment but couldn't do it themselves. My parents would drop me off, I'd work for several hours, and they would pick me up afterward.
posted by diogenes at 12:36 PM on April 17, 2009

are you church goers? congregations are great for finding jobs for the under 16. it seems chic-fila always has a 14 or 15 year old at the drive thru
posted by nadawi at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2009

Does your son have any skills or special interests? Do you have friends or family who run businesses around the town?

Unless your son wants a career in food service or lawn care, I would recommend he try to find something in a field he's interested in or would potentially consider as a career. It's never too early to start thinking about the future.

At that age, I was told I had to get a job if I wanted to buy clothes and incidentals. So I went to a city job fair for underprivileged youth. I found a job listing for doing light office work at a video/multimedia production house. Since I was interested in computers, I asked them about it. They assessed that I was overqualified and put me to work taking care of their computers and doing creative work, and worked there summers and winters for the next 4-6 years. I've been doing IT work ever since.

I don't mean to hate on food service (or retail), but I know many bright people who get into it because it's easy to get hired, but then come to accept the low pay, no sick time, no vacation time, crappy shifts, no health insurance, etc as the norm, and the inertia of already having some time invested in this field keeps them from moving on. "Just a summer job" turns into a "during college breaks" job, that turns into an "after college, before I figure out what I want to do" job, and pretty soon 30 rolls around and you're still washing dishes wondering when you'll figure out what you want to do with your life.

Also, if he does go with the independent lawn care thing, be sure he doesn't undervalue his time. I had many snow shoveling clients at 12 who were only paying me $5 for 2-3 hours of backbreaking work and I regret not asking for more.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:56 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding construction. I started out sweeping up a job site after school at that age. Eventually I was helping to pour concrete, frame, wire, insulate, drywall, paint, carpet and finish apartment buildings. I have no idea how much I've saved since then doing all my own repairs and remodeling. I was also the chief grass cutter and landscaper for the existing buildings.

It can be dangerous, but if he's with a good crew they'll look out for him. I'm not sure if it was entirely legal or not, but my parents were okay with it.
posted by cdmwebs at 1:06 PM on April 17, 2009

It was also where I started using computers "professionally." I helped the owner develop a super simple Access database to keep up with rent, late fees, etc. That part is now my day job. The computer part, not the Access database part.
posted by cdmwebs at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2009

I am currently just leaving that age range, and in my personal experience and those of my friends and school mates, life-guarding is the best job you can find.

Every pool works diffrently, but most have super flexible hours. All you need to do is pass a short class (usualy with the American Red Cross). I don't know where you live, but your local Red Cross chaper should be able to help you fine where a certification class i being held.

Another upside to being a life-guard is that it helps build confidence working with a team. There are many opertunities to develop leadership skills, and the life-saving skills you learn will stay with you.

There is a small physical requirement to be enrolled in the class. For the American Red Cross program, you have to be able to swim 300 meters (100 Freestyle, 100 breast stroke, 100 choice of the two) and be able to swim 15 meters dive to the bottom of the pool retrieve a 10 lbs. brick and swim it back 15 meters. If you are worried about the tests, just goto your local pool and ask a life guard. We help people practice at my pool all the time, and you would be suprised how many people can pass the test (we have life guards in their late 50s).

Good luck.
posted by Stirdog at 2:04 PM on April 17, 2009

Bicycle shop, maybe? I started working in one at fifteen and a half, and it was a great learning experience.
posted by letitrain at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2009

I was going to suggest work as a library page, which I did at that age. It looks like the Madison Public Library sets a minimum age of 16 for pages; do you by any chance live close to a suburban town library that might have different rules?
posted by Orinda at 4:08 PM on April 17, 2009

Fast food? I don't know the laws there, but when I worked at a DQ in Kansas, you could work there from age 14 on... you just couldn't operate the fryer until you were 16. Or, at least that's what I was told.
posted by katillathehun at 4:43 PM on April 17, 2009

Entry level at recession proof businesses
posted by Acacia at 4:55 PM on April 17, 2009

Something he would otherwise never come into contact with at all. Rather than fast food or a grocery store or retail or something, take a drive around one of those commercial parks and go in and ask to sweep the warehouse or something. Try to find a business small enough where the owner is actually on site, and ask them. The old "you know what, kid, I like you," story doesn't only happen in movies.

When I was in high school, I worked some afternoons in a book bindery pushing paper pallets around. There was a somewhat associated printing house next door with giant presses and stuff. It was double-plus fascinating. Boring work, of course, for an unskilled kid, but the chance to walk around and learn things made it great.
posted by ctmf at 4:56 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If he's 14 and has never had a job before, his best bet is probably going to be food service or, as someone else said, lifeguarding or other "outside" work. For food service, he should just go around to all the fast food places, supermarkets, etc in town. Ask if they're hiring. They'll usually give him an application to fill out. He should then follow up later by phone, ask for the manager, and ask for an interview.

Also, I seem to remember that some restaurants will hire 14- and 15-year-olds as dishwashers. He could work his way up and be waiting tables by the time he's 16 or 17, which is great money for a kid.
posted by lunasol at 5:32 PM on April 17, 2009

I had the best luck with seasonal jobs - giftwrapping in December at the mall, greenhouses or garden centers in the summer - at that age. After 16 I knew a lot of kids who worked at grocery stores/video stores - but they usually want to train someone who will be there 'till the graduated (not the limited hours, etc.)

My only other advice about getting a job as a teen - to wear a sexy dress to your minimum wage interview - probably won't help him too much. Good luck!
posted by Acer_saccharum at 6:07 PM on April 17, 2009

how can I find jobs for an earnest young man in Madison, WI ?

You can't. He needs to be able to go around looking for jobs, fill out applications, etc., himself. Nothing puts me off hiring someone quicker than having a parent (or anyone else) involved in it. If someone is not mature enough to get their own job, they're not mature enough to work.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:56 AM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

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