A Guide to Teenage Employment

Advice from a constantly employed highschooler.


Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go. The seven dwarves said it best, because for many of my peers every week seems to be a constant cycle of all-work and no-play. In this article, I will try and advise you all the best ways to have a prosperous work-life balance. 


Where you work is a crucial part of your employment enjoyment. Personally, I have worked as a host in multiple restaurants, as an assistant jewelry maker for a small business, and as a tennis instructor for little kids. Additionally, I have many friends who have worked as lifeguards, starbucks baristas, and in retail. Given this experience, I think I am qualified to give some recommendations on where to work.


-Everyone should work at a restaurant at some point in their life. Possible positions include host, waiter, busser, food runner, and expo, so there’s something for everyone! Working in a restaurant is a truly shaping experience. You haven’t lived until you spend a Friday or Saturday night running your tail off for 6 straight hours to go home with a wad of cash and a desperate need for a shower. Besides being a great way to make money, it teaches you how to work as a team, helps you improve your people skills, and it can be really fun!


-Although I have not been a lifeguard, from what I have heard it is a great job. While the hours are long and the task is serious, you get to spend your summer in the sun surrounded by a group of your fellow lifeguards, with whom you will likely form strong bonds. Additionally, the money can be great, especially if you do it for multiple summers in a row. Getting time off is usually not too hard, and most pools have to close if there are storms, which are definitely common during our South Carolina summers. 

Photo Credits: Noelle Andrews

Babysitting/Dog sitting/House sitting

-Taking care of other people’s responsibilities is incredibly easy for most teens. Adults love to pay teenagers exorbitant amounts to do the bare minimum. You can easily make your own hours. Reach out to as many or as few families as you want for work and you can turn down jobs as you please.


Being able to balance your time can be the deciding factor between work burnout and employed bliss. If work is forcing you to sacrifice all of your time for things you enjoy, you will not have a good experience. One must create a schedule that works for them. If

My availability because I hate money

 you like to play sports after school, you could work on weekends. If you like to hang out with friends and family on the weekends, after-school hours could be for you. If none of these options seem appealing to you, you could always get in kahoots with your manager and see if they will let you be on “pick-up only”, where you can decide exactly which shifts you want to work based on when your co-workers don’t want to work. This option is by-far the most flexible and your coworkers will appreciate you for covering their shifts. However, this option is very inconsistent and can leave you with less-than-bountiful checks at the end of each pay period. And at the end of the day, there’s always summer! One summer of consistent working can set you up with a full bank account for the rest of the year, but you’ll have to be smart about your spending to make it last until your next summer break.


Trust me, getting a job isn’t hard. Just go into one of your local restaurants or shops and ask for an application! Or you could go online and fill out an application, but you boost your chances if you go in-person and get some face-to-face interaction with your future employer. Many places are desperate for hands so you probably shouldn’t worry about getting hired. However, when it comes to interviewing, I can’t help you. I have had a multitude of different jobs and have not once been interviewed. In my experience, places (restaurants especially) are so desperate to get new employees that I was hired on the spot. 


Are you the kind of person who can join the teenage workforce? Short answer: Yes. In my personal opinion, anyone can have a job during their adolescence. There are so many options that anyone can find something that is perfect for them. And with so many ways to create a schedule, there is almost no excuse! However, if you don’t WANT to work, do not feel ashamed. A job isn’t for everyone, and if I didn’t have excessive shopping habits I would definitely not have a job.


-Money: That bi-weekly paycheck is the best part of my day every other Friday. The hours you put in seem really worth it when you get your bank account replenished.

-Friends: Making friends with your co-workers is so interesting. Your work bestie is probably going to be someone you never would’ve been close with if it wasn’t for the work environment.

-Fun: Shifts can be really fun! Especially if you had no plans that day, a shift of work can fill your time with something interesting and enjoyable.

-Tax Returns: While getting part of your paycheck taken out every pay period is disheartening, tax-filing websites such as TurboTax are very easy to use and put money back into your pocket.


-Time: Being over scheduled or under scheduled is not fun at all. On one hand, you spend what feels like all of your time at work and don’t have time for things you enjoy— which can lead to burnout. But on the other hand, you don’t earn as much money as you’d like. Finding a balance is very hard.

-Difficulty: If you have a job that has you constantly running around, doing hard labor, or dealing with annoying people, it can be very hard. In these situations the compensation can seem unproportional to your efforts.


At the end of the day, whether or not you have a job is up to you. I think there are definitely benefits to working, but also factors that could make one avoid the workforce. Hopefully this article gave you some insight into what it is like being employed as a teenager. If you do have a job, maybe my advice could help you make your experience more enjoyable. If you don’t have a job, maybe my advice confirms your decision to stay unemployed. And if you’re questioning whether or not to get one, maybe my advice can help you in your choice.