EconomyFilter: Teenage needs work. A bit apprehensive and unsure on how to get it.
May 7, 2009 2:36 PM   Subscribe

EconomyFilter: I'm a sixteen year old desperately needing a part-time or summer job. I can't help but feel bad taking away from those who really NEED it though.

Long story short, I just got a car for a late sixteen birthday gift. I've wanted it for a long time, and it's great, but as a condition, my parents would like me to start working to help chip in for insurance, gas, and the car payment as well as my sometimes expensive social life.

The problem is twofold: first off, I feel bad taking what could be a job from someone who really needs it (like someone on WIC or food stamps) away from them (call me a bleeding-heart) and secondly, I'm still hesitant on the idea of work. Don't get me wrong, wherever I'm hired, I'll work diligently and faithfully but I'm still a bit rusty on the process. I've filed ~15 applications for local chain stores (ranging from Walgreens to Books-a-Million to Cracker Barrel) all online via and no response at all. Target was courteous enough to email me back saying no.

I have only a few restrictions, but I'm willing to waive them if it's what it takes to get me hired. I'd prefer not fast food, and by fast food I mean McD's/BK. I can humble myself to be a Barista, Burrito Engineer or a Sandwich Artist if it is so. I'd really prefer a job in an environment that's a bit more..intellectual..than McDonald's, but frankly I'll take what's available.

So cliffs for those still with me:
1) I need a good teenage part-time/summer job in this environment.
2) I need to know the best approach for job application - I'd love to have a job where I could submit a resumé, but I'm either underage for a position like that, or they are full-time positions and I'm not dropping out of school, so it's just filling out the form for now.

Thanks for your time. I appreciate it!
posted by seandq to Work & Money (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I won't self-comment often (learned that's a faux pas), but that is meant to be TEENAGER needs work, not TEENAGE.
posted by seandq at 2:39 PM on May 7, 2009

Where are you? Someone might know of a unique local opportunity.
posted by cabingirl at 2:41 PM on May 7, 2009

My first recommendation is to physically visit some stores, get a paper application, fill it out, and then ask for the manager, to hand it to them personally. Wear slacks and a tucked in button down. On your applications, be sure to list if you are computer proficient, a fast learner, etc.
When I was 17, I worked for a Dollar Tree in my area. The pay was a bit low for starters, but it was a really fun, somewhat laid-back place to work.
Good luck on your job hunt. In an interview, I think it might help for you to mention that you are trying to learn responsibility by paying these bills on the car.
posted by Night_owl at 2:46 PM on May 7, 2009

Answering your concerns about taking a job from someone who "really needs it", I would say that you "really need" a job as much as anyone else - you have obligations to your family to start carrying a bit more of your weight. That is a legitimate and commendable need. It's nice that you're concerned about the less fortunate, but honestly, unless you're actively helping a mother on WIC find a job, you not finding a job for yourself is no guarantee you'd be helping anybody who "really needs" a job find a job.
posted by flamk at 2:48 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Get a job and give some of your earnings to charity.

I agree that you need to physically go into some stores and talk to the manager. Is there anywhere you hang out on a frequent basis (coffeeshop, bookstore, etc)? See if they're hiring.

I'm not sure if a temp agency would take a 16 year old, but obviously you know how to type, and if you have some other computer skills you'd be valuable in an office. That would look much better on a college app or resume than a job at Starbucks.
posted by desjardins at 2:51 PM on May 7, 2009

Go in person to request applications, and drop them off in person rather than via email (unless the company requests via email). That's how I got jobs when I was your age (lo these many years ago in 1992). I didn't want to work in food service, either, but that's pretty much the only job offer I got. I worked at a local pizza parlor through high school, and it turned out to be quite a lot of fun. Restaurants are often a social place to work; a lot of my friends got jobs at the same restaurant and I also met new people. So don't rule that out.

My first jobs, before I could drive, were local babysitting gigs, which were often decent money and not too difficult.

I don't think you can really feel bad about whether you are depriving someone more needy of a job. You need a job to pay your bills and begin the small steps toward self-reliance and independence. I'm not sayinig don't care about other people, but throughout your life you will find there is always someone needier, less fortunate, more miserable. Do what you can, including volunteering, contributing to charity, being a nice person, and looking out for your friends and strangers alike. The ability to look out for yourself will be vital in these endeavors.
posted by JenMarie at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Btw, my husband loved working at the local hardware store when he was a teenager.
posted by desjardins at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2009

What are you interested in career-wise so far? A paid internship is an excellent way to get exposure to something that would pay and be great experience. Maybe your parents will have contacts in that field?

Also, maybe something like a girl/guy friday ad on craigslist? Kind of a create your own job, which would give you something to list as employment on applications?
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2009

There is an old phrase you may be interested in keeping in the back of your mind: Too poor to paint, to proud to whitewash. It's a description of someone who turns down work because they are "too good" for it. Hopefully, if you have this mindset now, you will learn to change it with your first job. It will serve you well in your future -- in those intellectual jobs that require a resume -- to remember that there is nothing shameful or humbling about working any job. Honest work is always good work. And, a job does not define who you are, and does not define your self-worth.

You do have some ideas about the job you want that do not mesh well with the type of job you are qualified to have at 16. Ok, suggestions. When I was in high school, I had a job at a pizza parlor, making pizzas. I also had a job at a grocery store, sacking groceries and being a checker. Some of my friends were lifeguards and wait staff at restaurants.

You can still find those jobs, and you are qualified for them. But, in this economy, it will just take more than 15 tries to get a job. Keep plugging away at it!
posted by Houstonian at 2:53 PM on May 7, 2009 [8 favorites]

If you have no experience and this is a part-time summer job, you are never going to get anywhere by submitting applications online.

Get out and apply in person. Ask to see the hiring manager. Make sure you look presentable--clean, neat clothes; neat hairstyle; no excessive jewelry or makeup. Basically, like you're interviewing for the job before you even get it. Have a resume available that lists any skills you have first, as opposed to your education. Skills come from outside interests and volunteer jobs, too, not just paid work. Don't use an unprofessional e-mail address on your resume.

Does your school have a work-based learning office? Or a career center? Are you involved in any career tech classes? That may be a route to find employment this summer that is more in line with your requirements.

It also helps if you know someone. Let people know you are looking.

If nothing else, you are going to learn how hard it is to find a job, regardless of the status of the economy. Finding a job is, itself, a full-time job. Jobs are not entitlements. It takes hard work, preparation and persistence to find a job, even a bad one.

Also, babysitting and tutoring are very lucrative part-time jobs. There are many Web sites set up for people to list their availability and talents (,, etc).
posted by FergieBelle at 2:55 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about convenience stores? A couple of people that I know that are also teens [what am I saying, I'm a teen myself!] that work at Wawa. Maybe you can get a job there, or 7/11 just for starters. Also, check out your local movie theaters. The ones around here hires teens too.

Good luck on your search!
posted by QueenHawkeye at 2:56 PM on May 7, 2009

seconding the "visit in person" and dress appropriately.

Applying online is easy. Applying in person, asking for the manager, dressing the part...these things all demonstrate initiative, speaks to a laudable work-ethic, and should help you stand out from a raft of similar applicants.

You may also want to prepare a short statement of some sort to give the manager along with your application - something simple and short that explains why you asked to meet with them and why you would relish the opportunity to work for X.
posted by namewithoutwords at 2:56 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you feel really bad about taking a job away from someone, why don't you either donate a small amount of your earnings to a job training program (there are people out there who are adults and want to work but need skills or a training program first). Or, volunteer - I would actually recommend volunteering, I've learned and gained far more from some of those experiences than working. You can volunteer from a few hours a week to a few hours a month.

What are you really interested in or where do you like to buy things from? Lets say you enjoy video games. Another possiblity -- look up all the local video game stores in the phone book and call/email. I've had several friends get a job this way, they find them before other they are even advertised. If they want you to fill out an application, as Night Owl suggests, walk in there.

Other jobs that I remember that were fun from that age -- summer camp or rec center? They don't pay well, but they can be fun. Oh yeah, I've had friends who worked at book stores (sounded fun), but who knows if that would interest you or not.

In addition to calling and emailing the types of places you would like to work -- talk to your neighbors, etc, and tell them you are looking for a job (that was how I got my first job many eons ago).

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 3:00 PM on May 7, 2009

Do you have any friends with jobs? Ask them if their work is hiring. That's how most people I knew in high school ended up with jobs. A few people would get hired at various places, and then soon all their friends would be working there too.

Also check out movie theaters. They tend to high mostly teenagers.
posted by Arbac at 3:00 PM on May 7, 2009

My first jobs as a teenager ($1.60 an hour!) were grocery store cashier, movie theater concessions worker, and busperson. So, there are a few ideas.

In terms of worrying about taking a job away from someone who really needs it - how about applying at teen-centric places like Abercrombie, Urban Outfitters, video game shops, etc.? I'm not sure that most people "over a certain age" would even think to apply at those sorts of places - speaking as someone "over a certain age" :)

Does Craigslist cover your area? Sometimes really offbeat opportunities to make money come up there, ranging from dog walking to participating in focus groups.
posted by chez shoes at 3:03 PM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: Just a quick note, and I appreciate all that's come by so far:

I want to go into a career in politics (what? you're crazy!). No, I know. But it's really what I am interested. I've been interning pretty regularly at a local state representative's office and I do really enjoy it, but the fact is it's unpaid and with our state's budget crisis, there's no room for a paid internship.

Just a few more questions to follow-up and throw out there.

1) I applied at BAM! (Books-a-Million) a few days ago online. I was going to go check on the status of the application (first time I've done that, a bit nervous to be frank) but I'm curious whether or not I should just fill out an application there in paper so they can see who I am and all that jazz.

2) The thing I like about SnagAJob is it indicates what locations in the area (someone asked, I'm in Central Florida) are hiring and then proceeds for you to fill out an application. Would it be wise to continue using that site just to determine who's hiring, then going in there, and filling out the paper or computer (if they have one of those computerized application centers) on-site?

3) I appreciate all your help and I hope I'm not making you feel old!
posted by seandq at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2009

At least five guys I went to high school with (I'm in my mid-20s) work at an Apple store to make the money they don't make playing shows at small venues on weekends. They're always looking for younger people to bring in. When I was in high school, all the recent college (and some high school) grads who needed time to do that sort of thing worked at he local skateboard shop. Look around for a place where a lot of slightly older people work, particularly if they've worked there since high school: that's usually a pretty good indicator of where the good part-time employment is. Of course, this is a poor long-term strategy for finding a career, but it's pretty decent for a summer/weekend job.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:06 PM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: One more, sorry, I meant to put this in the big omnibus post earlier:

Regarding friends with jobs, yes, I have them, and they're plentiful. What you'd presume: grocery stores, video game shops, movie theatres. However, they're always telling me that their place of employment isn't hiring. My worry is although they are close friends, their economic prosperity is number one to them at the moment and they can't afford someone who would cut their hours. The biggest issue among hired friends is that the hours they work are very limited at this time, so they don't want them to be cut any more, if that makes sense.
posted by seandq at 3:07 PM on May 7, 2009

2) The thing I like about SnagAJob is it indicates what locations in the area (someone asked, I'm in Central Florida) are hiring and then proceeds for you to fill out an application. Would it be wise to continue using that site just to determine who's hiring, then going in there, and filling out the paper or computer (if they have one of those computerized application centers) on-site?

Yes, precisely. Use it as a resource, then go in personally and make your good impression.
posted by desuetude at 3:09 PM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: One more follow-up:

How long is an appropriate time between filing application and checking back for follow-up? Gut says it should be 3-5 days.
posted by seandq at 3:11 PM on May 7, 2009

When I was your age, I had a job at a golf course and absolutely loved it. To this day, one of my favorite jobs. So, okay, it's not 'intellectual', but I bet you'd meet some interesting folks there. YMMV.
posted by kingbenny at 3:12 PM on May 7, 2009

Are you kidding me? I'm just 4 years older than you, and you're making ME feel old!
That said, I do think you should go in person, even if you are using that website to determine where you want to apply. Sometimes putting a face with a name can make a manager want to hire someone they might not otherwise have thought of.
Yes, go check on the application at BAM! I would say don't worry about filling out a paper app, just ask to speak to a manager and explain why you're there.
posted by Night_owl at 3:17 PM on May 7, 2009

One of my first jobs in high school was at the local science museum and it was the BEST JOB EVER! Many museums include a few jobs as part of their educational outreach programs so if you have any museums nearby, go ask if they are hiring. They might need helpers, group leaders, ticket sellers, etc...

Again, nthing the suggestions to show up in person. Even if places don't advertise openings, they may actually be hiring. Food service and retail have very high turnover rates, so show up, look good, show that you're responsible and ask for an application. Movie theaters and ice cream places routinely hire high school students. Book stores are an "intellectual" option, and back in the day, all my arty friends worked at the local video store. The key is to get off the interned and go show some managers what a good employee you would be.
posted by ladypants at 3:25 PM on May 7, 2009

Also, physicians will hire responsible and computer savvy high school students to help manage their office. You could ask your family doctor if they are hiring or know somebody who is hiring.
posted by ladypants at 3:28 PM on May 7, 2009

3-5 days is fine for a follow-up.

Also, there is no harm in just stopping into places without knowing if they are hiring. Most of the best part-time jobs I had weren't advertised. If you see somewhere that seems like a cool place to work, just go in and ask if they are hiring. Be ready to fill out a resume and interview on the spot (so dress nice, bring any paperwork need, don't have somewhere you need to be in 10 minutes).
posted by indyz at 3:32 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

And by resume I mean application, of course.
posted by indyz at 3:34 PM on May 7, 2009

Hey man, I'm 24 but to this day the BEST job I ever had was working at a hardware store. I highly recommend it. I would find all the hardware stores within a 30 minute driving radius and try and find a job there.

When I was 16 I worked as Customer Service Rep (basically walked around the store) and cashier for a local Mom and Pop hardware store. It was one of the best experiences I ever had. I learned an invaluable amount in regards to hardware, tools, Do-It-Yourself Projects, and even little tricks of the trade from people coming in who had a specific problem and were just 'figuring out' a way to fix it.

You are a young guy, but one day you will need to be an independent man of the house. I walked away from that job being able to tell people how to mount on drywall, put a toilet together, drive a fork lift, suggest fertilizers and much more. I even got to handle money, which is a pretty good thing to throw on your resume at your age.

Another opportunity I had was to referee younger kid's soccer games. If you have any sports experience you might want to look into your local area's parks and rec association. They may have ref jobs, or kids summer camp jobs. I like the ref jobs because you have to be in control and also deal with stuff from parents (at times). Man I sound like an old man, but this stuff does build character and will help develop you from a young man to an adult (I'm only 24, so I shouldn't be talking but hey).

I really recommend the hardware store idea though, especially if you can find a smaller mom/pop style one. You will work great hours and learn a bunch.

Hope this helps.
posted by OuttaHere at 3:38 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh and to add to my previous post. Drive there personally, go to the register or customer desk and ask for an application. I recommend filling it out there, if there is a manager present introduce yourself with a sturdy handshake and give him or her the resume in person.

This helps!
posted by OuttaHere at 3:39 PM on May 7, 2009

you want to pursue politics! go out and network! don't be nervous!!!

The reason you're not getting a lot of bites online is that most big corps don't like to hire 16 year olds. It's possible to work at places like Target/Gap/Macy's etc. when you're 16, but there are enough 18+ year olds that need the money for their livelihood, that they're generally going to be more reliable. The summer after my senior year of hs, I couldn't get hired anywhere, simply b/c I was 17.

Your best bet will be places small mom and pop shops, i.e, independent pizza place, sam's burger house, etc. It will also be more fun. The bigger places will have a whole cadre of part time workers, and they'll juggle your hours and in general be terrible. If you work at a small, locally owned burger place, your hours will be more consistent, the people will be nicer, and they'll let you have more free food!

so think local! and network! As a bonus, working locally and meeting people could help you connect with people in case you ever want to run for mayor. Plus, you'll get to know your clientele better, which could lead you to more jobs in the future. (Mr. Smith, how's your burger? I'm glad you like it! Sure, I can mow your lawn this weekend! Or, Sure I can babysit your kids!).
posted by unexpected at 4:00 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you good with housework and domestic duties?
I just hired a teenage babysitter, and when I was in college I'd babysit & clean for cash.
posted by debbie_ann at 4:06 PM on May 7, 2009

The biggest thing that will influence whether you enjoy a job or not is the people you work with. A cool boss and/or coworkers can make going to a job a real joy and something to look forward to no matter what you're doing. Likewise, a real fuckwad lording over you can suck the joy and life out of even the most dream-inspired position.

I can pretty much guarantee you will be able to perform the duties required of you at any shop if you're referring to your original post as an 'Omnibus', so I would focus on making sure you think you could get along with your workmates/coworkers.

Be careful with online postings, they are incredibly convenient to put up, and incredibly easy for an employer to dismiss / 'lose' / ignore. Get them to see you as a person as quickly and strongly as possible.

I worked in an independent video rental shop during high school and it was a great experience. Be careful to label jobs as 'beneath' you or yourself as overqualified, you may be suprised at how difficult/involved service sector jobs can be.

You're still in high school and probably can't because of laws preventing under-18s from working alone (at least in California, probably other states also) but I always thought a night concierge at a hotel was the perfect part time job for a student.
posted by spatula at 4:13 PM on May 7, 2009

Since you are in Central Florida, I recommend and

You might be able to find work at Seaworld, Universal Studios or one of the Disney Parks if you are in Orlando. Even if you don't live in Brevard County, that second link frequently has job fairs in and around Central Florida listed in the Links section. In Tampa, Busch Gardens is a huge employer (I worked there as a teen).

As you may know, Florida has (according to the news this morning) the 4th highest unemployment rate in the nation. Even so, you strike me, based on how well-written and grammatically correct your question is, as someone who really has his act together for a sixteen year old! Good luck.
posted by misha at 4:27 PM on May 7, 2009

One thing you might want to try is to choose something you want to do, and go hit up all the places that do that thing. For example, at your age I said to myself that I wanted to work in a computer store, particularly assembling PCs. So I went through the phone book and newspaper, wrote down the names, addresses and phone numbers of every computer store I could find, and started visiting them one-by-one. I walked in (résumé in hand), asked to speak to the manager, and said that I'd like to work for them. Some of them quickly dismissed me, others said they'd call me back, and others interviewed me on the spot. Eventually, one called me and asked me if I wanted to sell computers; although that wasn't my first choice, I did it and learned a lot -- much more than if I was building computers.

Anyways, my point is: Decide what you'd like to do, and go apply to every place that does it. If that doesn't work, decide what else you'd like to do and repeat.

On the subject of a résumé: You should write one that has your phone number & address, your interests, and any work experience you may already have (ie: babysitting, etc.). If you don't know how to make one, google it. People don't expect much from the content of your résumé, but the presentation (neat, not dirty or crumpled, well thought out) says a lot about you.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:30 PM on May 7, 2009

I wouldn't concern yourself with taking a job away from someone who needs it more. The vast, vast majority of managers will pick an adult over a teenager for most any job. (USA Today just ran a story on that yesterday, in fact)

If you get the job over someone with work experience and the benefits of not being restricted with regards to hours and duties, well, you just deserve it more. And this hypothetical adult-in-need most likely wouldn't have been hired even if you hadn't applied.
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want a career in politics, you will be doing yourself a great service by praticing getting out there in person and making a good impression. Hence I am umpteenthing the suggestion that you apply in person.

It is always much, much, MUCH harder to distinguish yourself online than it is in person.

Also, if you want a career in politics, you will be VERY WELL SERVED to have a lot of experience in boring regular low-wage jobs. Because guess what? Most of your constituents will have boring regular low-wage jobs, and as a public servant later, you will have a much better idea of what their lives are like if you've been there and done that too.

If you think you're too special to flip burgers or clean toilets, I strongly recommend you pursue a different life's work. There are too many entitled assholes in politics already.
posted by Sublimity at 5:17 PM on May 7, 2009

My parents gave me the ultimatum that if I wanted to drive I had to have a job to help pay car related bills. When I turned 16 and got my license, I didn't have a job and the first time I asked my parents to use the car to go out with friends after getting my license, they said "No, you don't have a job." I could use the car to job hunt...but nothing else.

I also felt in the same boat as you - not really wanting any food-type job, but rather something that pertained to my love of computers (associate at Best Buy, or at a computer repair shop, etc). These were hard to get - and I had no luck.

But, when my parents enforced their ultimatum, within two days I had a job at a semi-fast food restaurant because it was the first thing I found just so I could drive the car. You know what - I *loved* that job, and I *loved* working with food and the customer service that went along with it. I started out washing dishes, but learned every other "position" in the restaurant as well (line cook, register, bakery, food prep, etc) and enjoyed every aspect of the food business. And while many picture the dishwasher as "low man in restaurant," the position was central to everything going on and I got to observe how all parts of the restaurant operated and the pacing - so there's always something to learn in what you may have considered undesirable. I even got a job at a sub shop for a change of pace and that was awesome, too - less "face" time with the customer since it wasn't sit-down, but it came with it's own fun customer interactions.

And while now I'm entrenched in Corporate America, working with computers, and in general enjoying what I do, I still dream about working in a restaurant. I think about opening my own eatery one day, even though it would be hard work and crazy hours. But man was it rewarding and fun.

So sometimes the thing you are least interested in may surprise you and become something you love and enjoy.


When you apply, always apply in person and hand the applicaiton/resume to the manager or person responsible for hiring. I'm Nthing what has been said thus far. Another thing is do not show up requesting this manager's time during peak hours - like dinner-time at a restaurant, or during a post-work rush at the retail store.


Another thought I had is have you talked to your parents about how you feel regarding taking a job from someone else? Whereas I agree that you wouldn't really be taking a job...people do earn their position they are applying for...your concern is still a personal and valid. So maybe you could explain this to the parents and offer them an alternative - for the summer/while the economy is bad/etc will they be willing to pay for your car-bills, while you instead volunteer. Find a local animal shelter, battered woman's home, homeless shelter, church, etc - whatever strikes your fancy - and see if you can volunteer. Commit to volunteering just as many hours, if not more, to show you are serious about this "trade" and not just trying to get out of "real work." Not only will this give you awesome experience volunteering, helping others, etc - but it will look good on future resumes or as something to talk about in your first career interviews. Plus, volunteer organizations typically run on show-string budgets so you'll learn how to really stretch a dollar business-wise.
posted by JibberJabber at 5:26 PM on May 7, 2009

The best job I had during high school was working as a bank teller. Most people don't know that you can even get that kind of job at your age, but many banks will happily hire high school and college age students as tellers. Just ask a teller at a local bank if they're hiring and if you can fill out an application. Try everywhere. Dress well when you do this.
posted by telegraph at 5:27 PM on May 7, 2009

Best answer: 1. Apply in person. Shake the manager's hand.
2. Dress neatly but don't overdo it.
3. You seem pretty conscientious so I'm sure that all your applications will be neat and tidy. Don't leave any blanks. N/A is fine for job experience past babysitting gigs and your internship.
4. Make copies of the applications before you turn them in. I managed a retail store for a while and my employees would shove applications in all kinds of weird places when they were busy. Sometimes they got lost.
5. Create a resume of your interests and skills, sure, but also include your goals and the a bit about the importance of a work ethic and contributing to your family. (Maybe overkill, but it would have impressed me and made me want to give you a break when I was a retail manager)
6. Include a list of 3 personal references who are not related to you. Make sure they know that you have used them as a reference. People you have met through your internship are a good resource for this, as are your parents' professional friends.
7. Someone else said this already: Get a professional sounding email address if you don't already have one.
8. Just as important as the email address (maybe more important): Make sure your cellphone's outgoing message is professional and straight forward. Don't make them listen to music.
9. Your gut reaction is right. Definitely check in 3-5 days after you submit your application. Do this in person and ask for the manager again. Check again a week later.
10. Apply everywhere! It's a rotten time to get a job, but persistence will get you there.
11. Worst case scenario: You're stuck until the holidays. Around October, retail stores start hiring holiday help. If you impress them during a temp gig, they'll keep you on if they can afford it.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:35 PM on May 7, 2009

Definitely go in person to apply. Applying online has all sorts of advantages to you, since it's easy and sortable, but these types of jobs frequently hire on the spot, and, well, you need to be there for that to happen.

Don't be above MickyD's. One in every eight people in the country has worked there, or something like that--I did two stints at two different ones, and honestly those were some fun times (better than some other jobs I've worked since, actually). I ran the drive thru at every fast food place I've worked at, and I was fast and efficient and good at it. It takes more intellect than pulling fries out of a fryer, but I learned how to do that too.

Do you have a local radio station? I worked at the local AM station summers and on vacations, and my siblings all followed me. I got the job by calling and asking if they were looking for interns, and the DJ/station manager asked me to talk for a few minutes. He basically interviewed me over the phone with no experience and told me to start the next day. I was making $8.50 an hour or something, when minimum wage was around $5, and I got to run the station all by myself! It wasn't hard, was tons of fun, and turned into reliable work for my siblings, like I said. I ended up getting my degree in radio, although I don't use it now.

Lastly, as others have said, don't worry about taking a job away from someone else. It's noble and goodhearted to feel that way, but a) not realistic and b) doesn't serve you in the long run. You do have an obligation to earn money now, and you will continue to do so for the rest of your life, most likely. Welcome to the working world.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:17 PM on May 7, 2009

Taking a job at a fast food place or a movie theater means you have a way to show the next place you apply (or next places, in the fall or next summer) that you're able to hold a job and show up on time. It's harder to get the "intellectual" job if the "intellectual" boss thinks you're just some teenager who's never had a job--particularly in an economic climate that has experienced adults competing for jobs with teenagers. Which isn't to say that you should feel guilty for applying, just that you should be thinking strategically.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2009

If you can attach a resume, state prominently that you are good at listening carefully to instructions and executing them to the best of your ability.

Don't say that you're good at "managing others" or "delegating authority".
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:59 PM on May 7, 2009

I've been interning pretty regularly at a local state representative's office and I do really enjoy it

You have told him/her that you're looking for a summer job, right? NETWORK! He/she may know someone in the district who is hiring and a good word from a government official is golden (unless it's, like, Blagojevich).
posted by desjardins at 7:24 PM on May 7, 2009

- Golf-course - general maintenance - that was a blast.

- Campground - general maintenance (seasonal) - also a blast, meet tons of people.

- Retail/fishing/propane/firewood "store" at campground - ok...

- Janitorial - Church/Community hall - surprisingly nice place to work.

- Started a lawn-care business with a friend of mine - way too much work, but that one lonely housewife more than made up for the crappy pay...

- Rural paper route - you drive it - generally about 200 customers and you are done by 8am - but, puts a crimp in your nightlife as you have be up by 3am... or simply don't go to sleep... which eventually ends in a car accident... (especially when combined with a daytime lawn-care business, a girlfriend and um a "happy" lawn-care customer....)
posted by jkaczor at 7:36 PM on May 7, 2009

I'd take a different tack from most of the people here, I think. My advice:

Don't get a job. You're sixteen years old; sixteen-year-olds shouldn't have jobs. Getting a job when you're that young is an old American tradition, I know; it's one I followed in, myself. I can remember all the jobs I had, most of them in the only stuff I could get around my small town (food service, restaurants, etc). Some of those jobs were okay, and sometimes I met people who were interesting or influential in good ways on my life, but on the whole it was time wasted for a kid who would've been playing musical instruments, drawing, running, camping, reading, scheming to get laid, and generally enjoying life. Being an intern might be one of those things for you.

Now, I know that you're probably going to go and get a job anyway; it seems like that's what your parents are hoping to encourage with a gift like this (which is, I admit, a nice gift.) I guess all I'm saying is: I encourage you to work as little as you possibly can. Instead, just be more frugal. You mention your "sometimes expensive social life"—what could be expensive about a social life? Paying for gas when you're running around? Going to concerts? Cut back on those things—and you'll have more time for yourself and less time that you have to work.

Really, I know that it's often said that 'it's good to learn the value of money' and that 'working will teach you the importance of responsibility,' but my experience was that that was nonsense. The people I worked with at the jobs that a high school student could get where I was were the least responsible people I've probably ever know. The fact is that you'll go to work full-time when you have to, over the summer when you go to college or after you've graduated college, and you'll either be responsible then or you won't, but I've never met anybody who was more prepared for employment later on because they worked in high school. When you're approaching your life, 'working' is not very important; what's important is knowing what you want out of life and knowing how to get it.

In short: get that barista job and work ten hours a week. Don't drive anywhere unless you have to, and curb the social life expenses. And, for god's sake, keep up that interning—that's an awesome thing you're doing, and the experience and the resumé cred it's earning you are priceless compared to a few wasted hours standing at a coffee-shop counter and a few bucks poured into a gas tank so that you can drive around a bit.
posted by koeselitz at 8:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you really don't want to take away someone's job, ask your parents if they'll agree to let you volunteer somewhere in exchange for paying your bills. Like a local hospital, or a homeless shelter.

Volunteering would be a great way to start building a career as a politician. It would show a sense of civic duty and unselfishness. It would also teach you to love your community and those in need.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:10 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't dismiss fast food too quickly. Yeah, it's not the ideal career path, but you'd be amazed how quickly you learn teamwork, how to be efficient, how to be flexible, and a lot of other skills. This will serve you very well later in life. I don't ever look down on anyone who is working behind the counter at a fast food place.

Also, online is just a tool in your search. Face to face is more powerful than anything. Also extremely important is networking. There are people that have never had to look for a job because of their networking connections; the jobs find them. This early in life, you may not be easily able to network your way into a job, but it helps your odds and gets you started. I don't know how many times I've seen someone get hired after a "Hey, Bon, I'm looking for a warehouse/cashier/whatever guy." Bob: "You know, I know someone who's been looking for work lately. Lemme give him a call." Get your name out there and you never know what opportunities can come your way. Sometimes those connections pay off when you least expect it.
posted by azpenguin at 12:13 AM on May 8, 2009

Don't knock food services. It's very likely that a lot of people in your dating pool have done, or even had to rely on, food services jobs. Having the experience can have unexpected benefits. Restaurant work, depending on where you are, can be quite lucrative and help down the road if you end up running a business.

If you're thinking of entering the sciences, go look to see if there are grants or scholarship for working in a lab. That kind of experience can count for a lot, and depending, help you decide whether that line of job is what you want to do.
posted by porpoise at 12:32 AM on May 8, 2009

When I was a teenager I just took the yellow pages and called everything that looked big enough to hire. It worked amazingly well. "Hi, my name is x, I've heard you hire holiday workers sometimes". Mostly the person on the other end will put you through to someone who knows more or who will tell you how to apply, or just invite you to come over. Or they'll tell you stories about how they're not doing well at the moment.
posted by dhoe at 12:36 AM on May 8, 2009

Don't get a job working for someone else.

Work for yourself instead. Think of a business you could handle on your own and get after it. If I had to make a recommendation I'd say:

1. Buy a lawnmower
2. Knock on Doors
3. Profit!

You'll be learning all kinds of skills that you won't get working for The Man. Cash flow management, sales, time management, all kinds of good things that will serve you well later in life. And if you're wanting to go into politics you'll have to learn how to knock on doors anyway, might as well get on it now.

Here's what seems to be a good Google search, do some research and give it some consideration!
posted by imabanana at 3:42 AM on May 8, 2009

Everyone should be forced at some point to work in the food service industry...just to know what it's like.

Also, we should all have to work on a farm for one summer.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:07 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I didn't read all the comments, but I liked your mention of "sandwich artist." I did this for a couple years in college (so in my late teens) and i loved it. although, since it was on campus, most of the customers were other students, so it was more fun then your average subway might be. to this day, one of my favorite jobs- and i've had many.

again, i apologize if someone already mentioned this but how old do you have to be to lifeguard? this was a very popular summer job in my hometown. plus, once you're in college, if you come home for the summer you'll have a job waiting. and you can work on your tan!
posted by lblair at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2009

Kids used to mow lawns part-time, but you have to watch out with that idea, imabanana, because most lawn service companies have insurance in case they run over sprinkler heads, a rock pops up and hits a window, etc. A teenager can't afford to compete on the same level.
posted by misha at 11:37 AM on May 8, 2009

Any job - even and especially the unintellectual ones - will help you with your more high brow aspirations. You may learn to deal with people who complain or shout at you, to organise yourself (and maybe others once they have twigged you can be trusted to do that) or just to cope with strains like a busy long shift doing whatever. You also learn to just get on with stuff if you have to. You learn what it feels like to be managed/mis managed/under valued or valued or whatever. As a result you'll be better at whatever you do ten years later.

For a start you'll cope much better with the menial, mind numbing tasks entry level jobs are littered with when you embark on a career.

Also, if you realise now that you can learn something working in menial jobs, working for/with people who are less educated/bright/eloquent than you that will go a long way in making you a more humble and credible. And there will be times when you have to be humble and adjust your attitude in any career, even those that require you to be confident and bullish for the most part.

Coming back to credibility, chances are you'll be good at this menial job and people may well give you responsibility in some form or ther. That will go a long way to backing up statements like 'managing people', 'delegation' in your job applications in a few years time - job applications are littered with these words and often the writers' experience is limited to some group project or other as part of their undergraduate degree...real world work experience goes a lot further. For example if you are trusted to manage a couple of people in a coffee shop and do so successfully as a teenager chances are 'managing' is something you are inherently good at...

And no - get a job, any job and don't worry that you are taking the job of somebody who actually needs it. You need a job to pay your way. Last night I was at the leaving do of two colleagues who were made redundant last month and whilst I was feeling very bad it was because I really like these people, I learned a lot from them over the years, they are as close to friends/family as people you work with ever get and I will miss them a lot. But I did not feel guilty about still having a job, nor did any of the other people there - we have to make a living just as they do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:34 PM on May 9, 2009

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