What jobs can a 14-year-old apply for?
November 10, 2009 10:14 AM   Subscribe

My son's 14, and wants to get a job. For instance, the local grocery stores employ kids his age--but they are not hiring at the moment. And state law says he can't operate a fryolater, among other reasonable restrictions listed here. So, who hires 14-year-olds?

What alternatives, over- or under-the-table, would you suggest? He shovels walks in the winter, and sometimes goes door-to-door offering to take on odd jobs for small change.

posted by not_on_display to Work & Money (42 answers total)
Farmers Market's
Teach him to start a business. Sounds like he's already used to manual-type labor. He could start a lawn maintenance business for the local area.
posted by DonSlice at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was that age also in MA, I got my first job in a flower store, mostly bleaching buckets and de-thorning roses but occasionally making arrangements or ringing people up. It was fun for me since I loved flowers.

What does your son like doing? I'd start there and then narrow down to what low-level jobs there might be that are at least tangentially related. It's less boring that way for him.
Other jobs kids had that I can recall were cashier in a grocery store, babysitter, paint-your-own pottery place worker, umpire/ref for younger kids' sports teams, bowling alley sweeper, etc.
posted by rmless at 10:22 AM on November 10, 2009

In the Chicago suburb where I grew up, there were a couple of big plant nurseries/farms that hired kids 14 and up. If memory serves, they were open year round although their big seasons were fall and spring. Not sure if your area is rural enough for that.

Alternately, if he's interested in babysitting, he could take a CPR/babysitter training course at the YMCA or a hospital to make himself more marketable to parents (this is something I recall friends doing when I was a teenager in the late-90s).
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was 14 I worked at a small, local ice cream shop for the summer. And to add to DonSlice's suggestion that he start a business - I pay a girl younger than him to clean up the dog poop in my yard (hey, she offered). Or if he likes dogs maybe he could start a dog walking service.
posted by thejanna at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2009

He could caddy -- my brother makes ridiculous money at this caddying for an elite private golf club (and it's all in cash). But, he can't caddy over the oncoming winter in MA. But it's a good option for him for the spring/summer next year. (Plus: do it long enough and it develops excellent professional skills. My brother has become quite the shmoozer.)
posted by olinerd at 10:25 AM on November 10, 2009

I got my first job just 3-weeks-shy of 14, working as a doorhanger for the local pizza joint - you know, the people who walk around putting coupons on the doorknob of every house in your neighborhood?

by the end of that summer I was doing everything in the shop except deliver the pies and taking them out of the oven (both operations that require one to be 18, or so I was told)

great exercise, working outside, minimum wage, and free pizza (to counter the great exercise, I suppose.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:25 AM on November 10, 2009

Not a job, but setting him up for one. He could get certified to be a lifeguard and take all the CPR, etc courses. Then he'd be first in line in front of his peers when the warm weather hits.
posted by phunniemee at 10:27 AM on November 10, 2009

Dry cleaners. I got my first job there around that age. It was mostly processing incoming orders and tagging all the clothes, with some intermittant cash register work.

Bonus: they're usually closed on Sundays, so my entire weekend wasn't shot.
posted by anderjen at 10:29 AM on November 10, 2009

Scooping ice cream, sweeping floors, bagging groceries.
He might be able to dishwash somewhere... but some of that stuff is sometimes expected of dishwashers...

Also, depending on what you do, there is significant flexibility for children to work in a place where their parents are employed.

This is a good year to buy him a used lawnmower and snowblower and have him offer services to neighbors... a lot of people will be looking for cheap, local labor to take care of their lawn and driveway.

Incidentally, that list... wow... Either I'm officially old, or my employers totally ignored a bunch of that list when I was fourteen...
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2009

I got my first job just 3-weeks-shy of 14, working as a doorhanger for the local pizza joint

This is the kind of thing he could offer to do, regardless if someone is "hiring". If he can think of a valuable service to provide, then have him practice a proposal and approach managers directly. They may hire him partly because they need the service and partly because they're so impressed by such an industrious young person.
posted by hermitosis at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was that age I washed dishes at a local restaurant. It wasn't glamorous, but it did get me into a kitchen to see how things worked. Had I stayed longer I probably could have worked my way up a bit. He may (technically) not be allowed to wash knives, so that may or may not be a factor, depending on the place.

I also picked apples at a local farm. I didn't pick them off the trees, just picked up the drops from the ground which were used for (I assume) cider. I think I got a dollar a bushel or something like that. It's a bit late in the season for that, I guess.

We just had a load of firewood dumped in our driveway and my wife hired the neighbor's kid to stack it into a neat pile on the other side of the house. Odd jobs like that are perfect for teenagers. Sometimes people take a liking to them and hire them for all sorts of stuff. Plus, word of mouth spreads quickly around the neighborhood. "That on_display kid is a really hard worker! You should get him to mow your lawns."

It's yard clean-up season so there might be some leaves that need a-rakin'.
posted by bondcliff at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2009

My first job (age 13) was being an elf, helping little kids get on and off a mall Santa's lap. It was a cheesy 2-man operation in a strip mall, Santa and a photographer. I think they charged $3 for a picture with Santa.

Maybe have him check w/the malls to see if the Santa's need any helpers.

He could also start a gift-wrapping business, offer to help people put up lights, get their homes ready for the holidays (cleaning, moving furniture around, getting things out of the attic, etc.). A Holiday Helper, if you will. Then go back to those same people for spring & summer yard jobs.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was 14 I cut grass and hedges for the neighbors and my parents. That is good work and really puts to rest any of these "I want to get a job" feelings in young people.
posted by parmanparman at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2009

Many of the ideas which I was thinking of have been suggested, especially lawn service.

Something that may work for the coming Holiday season is advertising as a holiday wrapper. Someone who is willing to come over and wrap gifts and tag them as appropriate. This is something that works really well in the holiday season that I do, except I do it to raise money for non profit.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:37 AM on November 10, 2009

At that age, I worked at a flower/produce stand doing the sorts of things that rmless mentioned above (under the table). Then I got a job shelving books at the public library, where I was absolutely NOT ALLOWED to help out the patrons. Seriously, if you came up to me and asked me where to find a book that I was holding in my hand, I was supposed to refer you to the front desk.
posted by amarynth at 10:39 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was 14 I worked in an office, and also for a small antique shop. Filing and dusting. Very dull. The next year I got a job as a bread baker. That was awesome.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2009

At around that age I got a job with a local newspaper/publicity delivery company. We'd get all the flyers and the newspapers early morning (5am or so), stuff them in bags, and then deliver them. There were whole teams of youths doing this every week. There may be something similar in your area.
posted by splice at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2009

My first non-babysitting job was at 14. I was a dishwasher at a small local restaurant. The owner was a friend of my mom's, but I wasn't the first 14-year-old that they'd had.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2009

Oh, I just thought of something else--my childhood local public library seems to hire its teenage employees out of its pool of volunteers. Even if they're not hiring right now, your son might be able to put in a few volunteer hours a week that could turn into a job down the road.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2009

In general, I think small local businesses are much more likely to hire 14-15 year olds than a larger chain. I remember all the employed 14, 15-year-olds that I knew worked bussing tables or picking fruit or shelving books or scooping ice cream at little independently-owned shops and farms.

I myself earned some spare change by caring for the neighborhood pets and plants when their owners went on vacation.
posted by castlebravo at 10:52 AM on November 10, 2009

age 14, in 1973, the kids I knew that had jobs did one of two things:

1. delivered papers
2. sold drugs

Guess who made the most money? I remember declaring to my parents that I needed money (for records mainly, and the kind of cool clothes they'd never buy me) and as such was going to take a paper route, which instantly proved too complicated due to the rep-hockey I was playing, not to mention my school work. Just as I was seriously considering selling a little marijuana (via a friend's big brother) my dad raised my allowance -- from five bucks a week to twenty, with a pile of new household chores added to my list including doing pretty much all the household laundry and making daily lunches for my little brother and sister (my mom had just started working).

And that's the closest I've ever come to being a drug dealer.
posted by philip-random at 10:54 AM on November 10, 2009

Some ideas, in no particular order. Sorry if they are repeats.

Nursing homes. My first job when I was about 15 was in the dining room at a nursing home where worked as a server of sorts for lunch and dinner . All of the servers I worked with were around my age. Looking back, I don't think it was really the best work environment for a completely unskilled kid (people with dementia! people having strokes at the dinner table!), but they didn't seem to have any problems hiring a bunch of 14 to 16 year olds.

Maybe a coffee shop, pizza place, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, or other fast food joint without fryolaters? I worked at Boston Market when I was a teenager and they were just like, "Don't work too many hours (um, but we'll probably ignore it you do). You can't carve the meat."


Helping friends or family that own a business with clerical tasks around the office.

Here in Chicago, there's a demand for dog walkers. The dog walker companies say that you need some form of reliable transportation, but for some, that form of transportation can be a bike. This seems like something that could be done informally/under the table without going through a company.

By the way, does he want money or experience? If he wants experience, maybe he should try for a volunteer position that fits his interests.
posted by thewrongparty at 10:55 AM on November 10, 2009

A mom & pop hardware store. You meet people, and the knowledge is great to have.

A garden center for the same reasons.

Grocery store.
posted by jgirl at 11:05 AM on November 10, 2009

I worked at the municipal Parks and Rec department when I was 14, mainly at the city pools. Some of it was groundskeeping and light maintenance, but most of the time I was the kid sitting in the little storage area in the locker room who would give you a basket to put your street clothes in.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:17 AM on November 10, 2009

It's sad looking through this list of suggestions. Here in So California all of the "jobs" mentioned are being done by adults working for pittance wages and trying to support families; no room for 14 year-olds in that market, I'm afraid.

If I'm not mistaken, most people get jobs through people they know - networking. I'd suggest that your son and you start working on his network. Talk to everybody you know and everybody they know and your son does the same. As someone mentioned, learning to shmooze is very important. My son started hanging out at the airport when he was 15 and talking to everybody he could, started washing planes, volunteering to help people with upkeep on their private planes, etc. He's now a pilot with a major airline.

Good luck to you both.
posted by charlesminus at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2009

There are a lot of leaves that need raking.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2009

Are you too busy to clip coupons?

When I was younger, my dad set me up with a "family job" where I would clip coupons for products I know we used. For example, if I found a $1.00 off coupon for something, then I would get $0.50, a $2.00 coupon, I would get a dollar. There are a ton of coupon websites now, too, which are great but take a lot of time to look through, and I bet your son could come in handy to scour these sites for useful coupons.

Obviously, it's not the fastest way to earn a lot of money, but it's one way for him to work in the safety of your home without you having to pay him.
posted by pumpkin11 at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2009

In addition to delivering papers, there's another (much, much, much cushier) job of stuffing that huge wad of flyers inside.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2009

When I was 15 I got a job in the proofing department of my local bank. Thinking back on it, I am surprised they trusted a 15 yr old to do the job. They had 12+ branches at the time and I ran the show at night for two weeks while everyone else was on vacation. This included processing all the checks, printing balance sheets, and packaging it all up for the couriers. At 16, a friend of mine got a job as a teller at the same place.

I second any suggestions for painting houses, or working at greenhouses/hardware stores.

And I agree with castlebravo - he'll probably have better luck with more local establishments.
posted by mbatch at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2009

MCdonalds employs 14 year olds.

Also at 14 i was a dish washer at a restaurant. (new york state). this was legally with working papers.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:12 PM on November 10, 2009

PS I made 7 dollars an hour . Hurs stunk because it was from 4 to 10 or so on sat, like 6 to 10 on fri , 4 to 9 on sundays and like 3 or 4 hours during the week.

will keep him out of trouble though.

At 14 he can also bus tables at restaurants.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2009

libraries.... worked there all through high school...it was pretty much the best grunt job I ever had.
posted by bananafish at 12:20 PM on November 10, 2009

Agree on local businesses being more likely to hire a young teenager. If you have a walkable commercial corridor somewhere near you, going door to door and asking folks if they're hiring could pay off - that's what landed me a job at a small town print shop many years ago.
posted by yarrow at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2009

He's already shoveling walks and offering to do odd jobs- for which there MUST be a call. Why not be a parent and tell him to WAIT? He has his entire life to work.

I would never allow my 14-year-old to have a job. School is his damn job.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2009

It depends on the kid and the family and the job(s), but my mom was no less of a parent for allowing me to get jobs than you are for not letting your kid work in high school. I knew a lot of overprivileged doinks in college who'd never worked a day in their lives and didn't know the value of a dollar (or a $25K/yr education). Of course, I knew overprivileged doinks who had worked in high school, too.

I managed my time well and had money for the records (yeah, it was a long time ago) and clothes that I wanted to buy that my mom wouldn't buy for me. I saved money for school. I made a ton of good friends at my jobs. At the bakery job I worked in high school, I was the sole person on the afternoon/evening shift (at the time, the bakery only supplied bread to restaurants - they didn't have a retail operation yet); they were a new business and I was the first high school student they had ever hired. I was given real responsibility for a tangible thing (bread!), and it gave me skills that I still use.

Still, of course, YMMV, and so may your kid's.
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2009

bus tables at a restaraunt (independant, not chain). At 14 I was a telemarketer, but I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy...
posted by WeekendJen at 2:05 PM on November 10, 2009

Babysitting (yes, boys can babysit)
Household chores (lawnmowing, raking, shoveling snow)
Tutoring younger kids
Lifeguard training
Paper route (though every paper I know of has adults drop of papers from cars
at like 5 am)

If he doesn't need the money (you can give him allowance to meet his needs), he could consider volunteering.

If you're over the age of 30 (maybe younger), your experience is probably not going to apply as much to this kid's situation. Labor laws are enforced more strictly now, especially as far as the hours kids can work. Businesses, even small local ones, can usually find plenty of 16+ kids who can do more things and work more hours for the same hourly wage. And most places don't like hiring kids who don't have their own transportation (this is true in Texas where you have to drive pretty much everywhere, but may not apply in MA).

I'm in my mid-20s and when I was 14, I applied all over the place, local, chain, whatever and nowhere would hire me. I had to babysit until I was 15 and then got a job filing at an office where a relative worked. I only got that job because my relative drove me to work.
posted by ishotjr at 3:21 PM on November 10, 2009

I'd like to suggest a different direction. Get him a job in an office, or a design studio, or a computer lab. Somewhere that will make him feel like a professional. Don't let his first impression of what it means to do adult work to be something that makes him think of himself as a pissant.
posted by bingo at 7:28 PM on November 10, 2009

The best job I ever had was at a local hardware store.

Not a big-box hardware store, but more of a mom and pop shop. Because of this experience I will probably make my kids, whether it's a he or she, work at one. I learned so many useful lessons about everything from fertilizer, to how to put a toilet together.

I'd highly recommend something like that.
posted by OuttaHere at 7:06 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

My first paying job was in a bowling alley nursery. They said if I stayed until I turned 16, I could move up to the snack bar - but I didn't last that long, and moved on to a small local florist. Nthing the suggestions to look at small, independent, mom-and-pop places. Also, my neighbor has three sons and all of them have done the babysitting certification course.
posted by candyland at 12:05 PM on November 11, 2009

Thanks to all of you for your wide-ranging suggestions! This has definitely opened the field up significantly.
posted by not_on_display at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2009

I shined shoes. There was an unused shoe-shining chair at a historic hotel in our town, and my dad asked the manager if my sister and I could use it. Then my dad took us to talk to an old shoe-shiner, to learn how a spit-shine is done (without actual spit).

Can't say we made much money, but we learned how to work regular hours, and gained a sense of independence. It was nice. I wish your son luck!
posted by torticat at 7:51 PM on November 12, 2009

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