The first steps in the world of work


The first steps in the world of work

Author :
Nathalie Parent, psychologist

Your teen would like to have their first job but you have concerns. Will their school work suffer, are they too young, will it be good for them or even motivate them, how many hours per week would be ideal, how can you help them maintain a balance, etc.? Let’s have a look at the different points to consider and, most importantly, how to prepare.

Having a first job can be very educational and beneficial for the mental health of a teen. It can have a positive impact on their:

  • autonomy (emotional, financial, personal, interpersonal),
  • confidence,
  • self-esteem.

Working during adolescence brings fulfillment to a young person, makes their life meaningful and gives them direction and motivation for their future. However, it’s important to ensure that their needs (rest and sleep, nutrition, social and emotional life, autonomy and independence) continue to be met so that work doesn’t make them more vulnerable to physical or psychological exhaustion.

Take stock of your own experiences:

Take stock of your own experiences:

Take a few minutes to remember your first job or jobs when you were young:

  • What was it like for you?
  • Was it a positive experience?
  • What memories do you have of it?
  • How many hours did you work?
  • If you could do it over, what would you change and why?

As a parent, it’s important to ask these questions because, generally speaking, parents may tend to project their wishes onto their children. If you had a satisfying job experience, the tendency would be to want to go through this experience again or to have your child experience the same type of situation. On the other hand, if there was something about it that hurt you or caused you grief, you might want to hold them back, whether consciously or not, without taking the time to listen to them or take their real needs into consideration.

This introspection will place you in a better position to look at your child as they are, with their personality, needs and limitations.

Question yourself about your values and those of your child

Question yourself about your values and those of your child

To guide your teen in an objective way, it might be a good idea to question yourself about your own values regarding your child and work.

What’s most important for you?

  • Your child’s studies,
  • The money they will earn,
  • Being a hard worker,
  • Their autonomy?

If you prioritized money, you may be pushing your child to work early and save money.

If you put academic work first, you may tend to suppress or dampen your teen’s desire to get a job. On the other hand, if autonomy is prioritized, you may be supporting their desire.

To better understand your child, compare with them where they stand with respect to these three aspects of their life.

Also, observe your teen and look at how the people in their life (teachers, family, friends) describe them. Are they:

  • hard-working: always ready to jump into action, to do more, to attack a task
  • studious: loves school, likes to learn, wants to go to university
  • a saver or a spender: likes to save money or likes to have pocket money to spend without having to ask (financial autonomy).

After doing this exercise, you may notice that your child seems very different from you. If that’s the case, you should adjust your expectations.

Finding the right work-school balance for your teen

Another factor to consider is your child’s ability to/speed of work with their current school schedule: how much study time should they plan for per week to meet the requirements of their program?

In fact, even if a young person is very motivated to work, it may not be easy to reconcile work with the time needed for their academic pursuits. However, some young people may be very fast in performing tasks (homework, work, etc.) and may be able to work, even if their academic program is very demanding.

By thinking things over with your teen, you’ll be able to identify their needs and limitations. Sometimes, by trying a type of job with a specific number of hours, your child will be better able to adjust their schedule. And don’t hesitate to remind them of the basic needs of their body (and brain): eating, drinking, sleeping, resting. Will they have time in their schedule for these fundamental aspects?

Guiding your child in their first job search

Guiding your child doesn’t mean “doing it for them”. Autonomy is a very valuable asset for their future. You can think with them about what they would like to do (taking means of transportation and your limitations into consideration) and you can suggest places, but the choice has to come from them first.

Both the resume and cover letter need to be done with your child. Many templates are available on the internet. Some secondary school courses prepare students to draft these documents.

Depending on the teen’s age and level of autonomy, a parent may or may not accompany them when they give their name, check employment needs (in person or by phone) or hand out their resume. The goal is for your child to do these things alone, which you can do by keeping your distance and having confidence in them. Another approach is to proceed by small steps, with the parent staying with the teen the first time they apply for a job, but keeping their distance the second time.

Some advice to give your teen for their first job
Signs to watch

Signs to watch

In the sheet below, you will find several signs to watch out for to prevent physical and psychological exhaustion in your son or daughter who’s working.

Watching out for your child doesn’t mean coercing them. Because adolescence is a period of transition to adult life, it will be in the parent’s interest to have their child think about the limitations of their body. Don’t hesitate to tell your teen what you have noticed (observable facts) and your concern in that regard. Then check with them to see what they can change to improve the situation or if they might need help in doing so.

Signs to watch for to prevent physical and psychological exhaustion in your son or daughter who’s working


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