blue and gray aj smith 365 logo Home  Archives  |  Shop  |  Sponsors  |  About Me   |  Contact Me


The modern approach to wealth, success, and self-fulfillment.
For money makers and cheddar chasers. 



Career Counsel 101: Advice for Teen Workers

Turning sixteen is a significant milestone in our adolescent lives.  It marks the time when we usually start our preparation for future independence.  Our bodies begin its transformation towards adulthood, we fall in love for the first time, we learn to drive, and we begin making our own money through our first part-time jobs around this age.

These part-time jobs may seem insignificant to most teenagers, but they do establish a foundation for future employment and help to mold the amount of wealth we will have in our adulthood years.  If you want to become a self-sustaining adult, here are some recommendations that I’d like to pass along to you to help get you through that first part-time job while setting yourself up for future financial success.

Research Your Vocational Options

As a teenager, your qualifications are not going to leave you with a wide array of vocational positions to choose from.  However, you should not have a narrow-minded approach when approaching your job hunt.

Yes, for the most part your first job will be in either the recreation or hospitality field as a counselor, lifeguard, or as a cashier or cook with a fast casual dining entity.  But, you should not make assumptions that this is the only type of jobs that are available to you.  Some states have employment programs that will give you experience in a lot of diverse job positions and within more industries than just recreation or hospitality.

Do your research and apply for these programs.  It will give you exposure to more job professions that will help you gain valuable skills and experience for building your job resume.

Try Not to Burn Bridges

Your part-time job will definitely not be your last one, but do not minimize its importance.  As a teenager, I quit a job or two without giving proper notice, only to be in need of another job and not be able to go back to those previous employers due to my adverse actions.

Your professional opportunities will be limited in your teenage years.  You will be confined by industry, position, and even geography due to being a young adult with school as a primary focus and lack of mobility as being a secondary factor.  As a result, you may run into the same people as you try to move from one job to another, or you may want to go back to a previous job that you once had.

Be a professional on the job so that, if you were to leave the company, they can remain a potential employment option in the future.  Have good manners.  Be reliable by showing up on-time and completing tasks that have been given to you.  If you are going to be late or cannot make it into work, be sure that you call and speak directly to your Supervisor and inform them of your situation.  And, if you need to stop working at the organization, give notice to your employer about two weeks ahead of time so that they can make adjustments.  If you can give longer notice that is even better as you may be able to train your replacement.  No one likes to be blindsided by a worker not calling to show up for their shift or someone quitting and not notifying the organization.  Think of your co-workers that have to cover for you and work with less manpower due to your negligent act.  By being a reliable and collaborative employee, you increase the likelihood that you can revisit an organization for employment.

I once had two employees assigned to me by my manager.  One was a total pain.  She showed up to my staff meetings whenever she wanted, she always had an excuse for her absence, and she continually gave pushback on work that we collaborated on as a group.  She was a knowledgeable person, but was very combative and almost always missing in action.  On the other hand, I had another employee that my manager also assigned to me as well.  She always showed up  and was very easy to get along with, but she had a real learning curve to overcome.  But, at the end of the day, I asked my manager to get rid of the combative employee and allow me to keep the one that did not really understand the work we were doing.  If I have to interact with someone, it is going to be with someone with whom I enjoy spending a whole day with.

Align Yourself With the Right People

If you don’t want to burn bridges, you need to stay away from the people that are burning bridges within the organization.  Just like a disease, bad behavior and negative energy can be contagious.  And, if you align yourself with people in the organization that are not doing what they are supposed to do, are continually putting out negative energy into the workplace, and are not approaching the job in a professional manner, you are either going to pick up some of those bad habits or get mis-labeled as being one of the cancerous elements within the organization.

Align yourself with those persons that are exhibiting good work behavior and are focused on being professional in the workforce.  Associate with peers on your job that have good energy and uplift people’s spirits within the workforce.  As they rise professionally, your probability of advancing increases as well.  Good habits and energy are contagious, so surround yourself with those that have it.

Also, keep in touch with positive workforce influencers by asking them to link up with you on social media (follow, friend, etc.) and vice versa.  Do not wait until college or when you enter the workforce full-time to start building your professional network.  The many people you encounter as a teen may have already solidified their place in the professional workforce by the time you are ready to enter into it full-time; thus, they may be able to assist you professionally.

Job Euphoria Isn’t Your Current Goal

As a young person in the workforce with barely any professional accomplishments or refined skills, you are probably going to be working in an entry-level position. So do not expect your first few jobs to be fulfilling and ideal.

At this stage in your professional development, which is the introductory stage if it had a name, you can search for a job that is ideal and brings you self-fulfillment, but you probably will not get it.  In fact, most adults do not have this type of job euphoria, but that is a conversation for my other published article.  Focus not on job euphoria but on professional exploration and skills development.

Focus on the industry in which you work (retail, hospitality, public sector, non-profit, etc.), the roles within the organization (Manager, Cashier, Accountant, Payroll, Tech, Public Relations, etc.), and the assets that the company sells (shoes, services, gaming, etc.).  You may not have access to some of these roles or industries right away, but when you get it, observe those roles, ask questions, and see if you can get some minimal exposure to performing tasks in those roles.  Similarly, see if you like the commodities that your organization is selling.  By gathering data around these areas of work, you are setting yourself up for long-term job satisfaction.  You can start to determine what roles interest you and what industries you like working in.  Then, you can start to filter your job searches so that you focus on specific industries and work your way up from lower-level positions that are normally carried out by entry-level personnel to the exact position within that industry that you want.

Jobs are not places of utopia.  Even people who have been in the professional workforce for at least a decade have not found a job that completely satisfies them; at least not for the long-term.  That is why people move around within their professional careers.  You may think the pay that the company is giving you is the rewarding factor for your services, but it is not.  Your introduction to the workforce at such a young age is the perfect time to use companies for the most valuable thing that they can offer you: experience and information.

Manage Your Earnings Wisely

Most teenagers enjoy the luxury of being involved in capitalism without actually experiencing capitalism firsthand.  What I mean by this is, most teenagers have the luxury of learning about capitalism in school from a theoretical perspective, and they also get to participate in capitalism by spending their parents’ or guardians’ money, but they don’t really fully experience capitalism through the lens of being responsible for providing all of the basic necessities for themselves (food, water, clothing, shelter) while also trying to have life experiences.  They enjoy capitalism from the perspective of I want these $200 shoes so that I can be cool .  They get to avoid experiencing capitalism from the standpoint of I will make $1000 this month, but I need some new shoes, the car needs new tires, and the rent is due.  Do I get these $200 shoes or get these $40 shoes that are on sale today for 20% off?  Just like Jody (Tyrese Gibson) said in the classic movie Baby Boy (2001), “Look at yourself.  How many millionaires you got on, bruh… This whole world moves forward in transactions.  Commerce.  The exchange of goods and services.  All the real ballin’ successful folks are sellers.  And, all the broke ass people playing catch-up are buyers.”

Your first job should also come with an introduction to developing good habits.  Talk with your parents or guardians about opening up a bank account and an investment account, and then save a portion of your earnings into both.  I would also recommend that young adults look into opening up a Roth IRA so that they can begin saving for their elder years.  As a teenager, your Roth IRA may need to be set up by a parent or guardian as a Custodial Roth IRA.  By starting a retirement account early, you will begin to amass a fortune a lot sooner than waiting until you reach the age of being a full-time working professional.  Seek out some knowledgeable and skilled people that know about investing and get guidance.  Also, opt for more mid-tier fashion brands, at best.  You can still look good and build a nice reputation with moderately-priced designers.  Learn to shift your mindset to being a saver and not a consumer.  By doing so, you will accumulate a noticeable amount of money in your savings and investment accounts by the time you finish high school.

Have Moments of Hindsight

In the workforce, adults and teenagers alike follow the same process.  They go to work, go home, decompress, and then go to sleep.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  They look up decades later and realize they never achieved the occupational success they expected, or that they wasted away in a profession that they hated.  But, as you start out in the workforce, I want you to avoid this cycle.

At the conclusion of each part-time job you have, or even on a weekly or monthly basis, take a moment to reflect on your work experience.  Think about the things that you like about the job, and the things that you did well.  Also, think about the things that you didn’t like about your job and also some of the moments that you experienced that were not so pleasant.  Was there a task that you were assigned and you could not, or did not, get it done?  Think about why you failed at the task and come up with a solution in hindsight, or present the scenario to others to see what could have been done differently.  Was there a co-worker that just didn’t like you?  How did you handle the situation?  How would you handle it now?  Think about what you learned on the job and how you can apply that knowledge and those skills going forward.  Do not just focus on the tasks that you performed, also think of some intangible things that you have accomplished.  Did you collaborate with others to complete an assignment?  Did you offer any recommendations to management to improve a process, product, or service?  Did you come to work with a positive attitude?  If you did not, what were the circumstances behind that and how can you mitigate this from happening in the future?  Capture these retrospectives and save them for future use.

Stretch Yourself

Don’t be intimidated to take on assignments that you may think are outside of your knowledge and skills area, or things that you are uncomfortable doing, because eventually you may need to know how to them.  As a novice employee, this is the time to attempt new tasks as step outside of your comfort zone.  Some jobs may require you to do something that may embarrass you like wearing a silly hat or performing a skit in front of people.  Some tasks may be very complex and vital to the organization and you may feel that if you fail at the task you will detrimentally cripple the organization.  Overall, companies are not going to put you in a situation where your failure results in an unrecoverable setback for the business.  Trying new things will allow you to learn and grow.  It will also give you experiences that you can discuss in future job interviews and it will help to build your professional character.

However, if an organization asks you to do something that you feel compromises your safety or morals, then that would be the time for you to either pushback on performing the task or ask the organization if you can defer carrying out said duties until you can check with your parents or guardians.


Whatever employment you get, learn as much as you can while you are there.  Perform your assigned duties as expected, but be curious about other roles within the organization.  Ask questions about processes, resources, and supporting tools.  Ask the “Why” questions so that you can gain an understanding as to why things are done within an organization and how it impacts various parts of the company.  You can even ask management if you can get some training within that specific area so that you can begin to build up your knowledge, skills, and abilities for future jobs.  And, most importantly, learn the names and versions of various software tools that you interact with.  Technology is a critical resource in today’s society.  It will become important to identify these solutions so that you can add them to your resume.  Additionally, knowing the software solutions will allow you to identify tools of interest so that you may seek training on these applications in an effort to claim expert level technical or functional experience with them.

Be Selective with Social Media

As a sixteen-year-old, or older, you have reached the point where you are transitioning into adulthood.  In the technological age, your words and actions live with you, and everyone that encounters them, for almost eternity.  So, if you have not been posting content online that is morally acceptable, now is the time to start doing so.

If you have already figured out what you want to do in life and your online posts, no matter how crude, supports your brand, then feel free to disregard this guidance around social media.  Social media is exactly that, media that is social… to everyone.  If you are posting pictures of yourself, make sure the pictures’ ratings, on a movie scale, are no higher than PG-13.  Similarly, your textual language should be of the same rating, but also steer clear of controversial viewpoints such as race, sex, religion, politics, and so forth.  Keep those conversations offline and only with a circle of friends that you trust.  Even a private message could go public should a relationship go sour, so don’t put anything in writing, or in a picture, that could possibly come back to haunt you.

Be the Quintessential Employee

Be the teen employee that everyone likes and that the organization wants to bring back.  In fact, be the employee that the organization sees has a future within the company.  You can do this by doing some of the things that we’ve already mentioned - aligning yourself with the right people, not burning bridges, being selective on social media, and stretching yourself professionally.  In addition to these things, the most important thing that you can do is harness the power of your soft skills.  Be a collaborator; be the employee people like working with.  Be relatable.  Have interpersonal connections with others within the company.  Offer thought leadership.  Make recommendations for change within the organization, but do so in a non-threatening manner.  Develop good conflict resolution skills.  If you or another co-worker have a disagreement, or you sense that someone has an issue with you, see if you can have a civil conversation about any issues, or perceived ones, so that you can that person can get back to a positive space.  Depending on the severity of the tension, it may help to have a third-party mediator involved.  And, finally, let the organization and its leadership know that you appreciate the opportunities given to you.

Keep Hustling

No matter how much in love you are with your job, keep looking for new ways to increase your dollars and also create your own avenues of additional income.  Constantly survey the Internet or your surroundings for professional opportunities for growth.  You will never know about better opportunities if you don’t keep your eyes open, so continually look even if you are happy where you are because you will never know when your circumstances at your place of employment will change.  Continually prepare yourself for your next opportunity.  Look at job descriptions that are appealing to you and identify the gaps there are between the job requirements and your current skills.  Then, seek out tasks within your organization to acquire the desired knowledge or skills.  Also, go on job interviews, even if you are not looking for one or feel as though the job qualifications are beyond your abilities.  The interview process may be rough, and you may be rejected for consideration, but you will gain valuable interviewing skills in the process.  Do not worry about the rejection if it happens; you went into the process knowing it was a long-shot anyway.

Take the skills that you have - either tacit or learned ones - and try to turn them into a money making vehicle.  If you do this while you are young, you can possibly build up your brand and grow your hobby into a full-fledged business by the time you are an adult.  Businesses take years to grow, so get started early.  There is no better time for trial and error than when you are young.  Everyone fails in life, so fail early with your passion so you can make corrections and perfect the areas that need improving.  You can secure your future before you walk across the stage and get your high school diploma.  And, while most of your senior classmates are trying to figure out what they want to be and which direction they want to go in life, you may already have it figured out.

The information provided AJSmith365, and associated material, products, and services, is for informational purposes only.  It should not be considered legal or financial advice.  
You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. 

AJSmith365 does not make any guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using our content. No one should make any investment decision without the proper consultation 
of a licensed and/or certified financial advisor or through his or her own research and due diligence. To the maximum extent permitted by law, AJSmith365 disclaims any and all liability in the event 
any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses.

Content contained on or made available through the website is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed. 
Your use of the information on the website or materials linked from AJSmith365 and its affiliated sites are at your own risk.

blue and gray aj smith 365 logo
2020 Copyright © AJ Smith 365

Home  |  Archives  |  Shop  |  Sponsors  |  About Me  |  Contact Me