Get a Job!

Get a job! It’s a command we lob at teenagers with some regularity, particularly when the sofa cushions are starting to fray from overuse. Your teen may be equally eager to start earning money and gain the freedom that comes with it. But with no experience writing a resume or networking, she may need a little help.

Before the job searching gets underway, you’ll want to sit down together to set some parameters. Youth may legally work in British Columbia from the age of 15 without the consent of a guardian. But while your teen is still in school, there are certain factors that a parent will want to consider:

How many hours can your child devote to a job and still keep up with school assignments? Most employment counsellors recommend no more than 4 hours a day on school days and no more than 20 hours in a week when school is in session.

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What kind of work suits your child? While serving up Blizzards at Dairy Queen may seem like a breeze to your teen, you’ll want to have an honest conversation about the realities of work in a fast-food joint, including the less savoury tasks like cleaning the washrooms. Food service and retail are sectors which tend to have the most part-time work fit for a teen, but don’t overlook rec centres and tourist attractions. Consider offices too, where basic admin tasks can be filled by entry-level, part-time workers.

How will your child get to and from work? If your child is not yet driving, will he be able to walk or bike to work? Public transportation is great, but be sure to evaluate the impact of the commute on your teen’s schedule. Early morning or late evening travel may compromise things like breakfast or homework.

Now that you’ve got some guidelines, it’s time to gather round the laptop and start applying. Right? Yes and no. It’s a good idea to see what sectors and businesses are hiring by exploring websites like,, and But even mid-career job seekers have trouble standing out from the hundreds of applicants who respond to these postings. If your teen’s resume is limited to babysitting gigs, it may be an exercise in futility.

Tap the Hidden Job Market

Encourage your child to inquire about employment opportunities with friends who are in the workforce already, as well as with your own adult contacts. Not all job openings are posted. They are filled via word of mouth. This hidden job market can be tapped best by making face-to-face connections. Send your kid out to retail establishments in the mall or downtown core with resume in hand.

Check with the School Counsellor

School guidance counsellors, teachers and coaches are also worth consulting. Many schools have staff devoted to helping students find that first job. These advisors can draw from an extensive database of employer contacts within the community. Once the student has proven himself to be reliable and hard-working, the employer may decide to hire.

Donate Your Time

You don’t have to dig very deep to find volunteer work in Vancouver. Contributing to the cause of a local non-profit will demonstrate your teen’s commitment to improving the community. Get inspired by browsing the postings at, where organizations like WWOOF and Habitat for Humanity do their recruiting. Though most internships are reserved for post-secondary students, there are a few available to high school students, particularly over the summer. For example, BC Cancer Agency offers students in Grade 11 a chance to explore cancer research from the front lines.

Pad Your Resume

Whether the job requires a lab coat or a sturdy pair of work gloves, these kinds of experiences look great on a newly-minted resume. Other things to include are any awards your child has received, education, training or certifications (FOODSAFE, First Aid, etc.), and extra-curricular activities like sports. All of these show your willingness to learn and cooperate with others. Don’t forget to include small jobs you may have done, like lawn care, pet sitting or child care. These exhibit your level of maturity and responsibility.

One of the most important skills your child will likely learn in her first job is perseverance. Most entry-level jobs come with a healthy dose of tedium, and you’ll thank yourself later if you insist that Sally stick with it. A good work ethic is among the most sought after qualities in job applicants, regardless of the field. Excellent communication abilities and a willingness to learn are also in high demand. These can be just as important than previous work experience. Once in the new job, teens will have a chance to test those communication skills in fast-paced environments, think on their feet and creatively problem solve. These “soft skills” will carry them far into whatever work they pursue in the future.

Needless to say, no test of your teen’s grit should take priority over his schooling at this age. Discuss with your child the importance of keeping up with schoolwork and ask the school to contact you with any concerns that employment is negatively impacting your child’s grades or attendance. Most parents will also want to establish a means of communication with the employer, in the event of an emergency or unexplained absence.

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