My Teen Has a Job!

A Dad's Point of View by Bruce SallanMy teen son got a job! Amazing! It took over a year of searching by foot and on the Internet, applying countless times, and uncharacteristic persistence and follow through. It was not easy. He experienced some unfair treatment and he also hurt himself in his efforts numerous times. As with so much in life, we often learn more in failure than in success and that is the lesson I believe he’s gotten from this arduous journey to employment.

The first and harshest lesson was heartlessly and completely unprofessionally provided by a small fast-food franchise. This franchise advertised at my son’s high school for employees and my son applied, along with several friends, and “got” the job.  This was in late spring.  By early summer, after going through  training, purchasing the uniform, and being given constantly delayed start dates, all of these new hires from my son’s high school were summarily fired before beginning work. The lame excuse given was “over-hiring” and the choice to employ only people over eighteen.

We were all pretty outraged since this cost the kids any chance for a job last summer.  One mom took the case to the State Employment Board and, after hours of effort may have gotten reimbursed for the uniforms and a couple of hours of pay for the time her daughter spent training. I asked my son if he wanted to seek recompense, but he was so discouraged that he kept on putting it off. He didn’t supply me with the necessary receipts, dates, and “evidence” we’d need to pursue the case. The “lesson,” was already taught that a job isn’t a job until you’ve actually begun work.

While I believe that failures teach us more than successes, my heart was still breaking for my son as this job meant a great deal to him.  He’d lost the summer hiring period and that ended up defining last summer for him.  It didn’t help that he’d broken up with his girlfriend of one year and the result is that he allowed himself to get mired in a “poor me” frame of mind.

With the beginning of the next school year, it soon became clear that he was drifting a bit, with his only serous commitment being to his music.  His efforts to find another job were very haphazard, and my job became encouraging him to overcome this setback and move on. What other choice did he or any of us have when something disappoints or lets us down?

Slowly, he got his spirit back and began applying and searching for new jobs.  He chose to do Independent Study for the second semester of his junior year to give him an advantage in job searching, since he’d be available more hours than his counterparts in regular school. He actually became focused and set himself an important goal: to get into a good music college. He began taking drum lessons from a hard driving, tough, you-gotta-read-music-and-know-the-basics teacher.  He continued looking for work, occasionally asking to be dropped off at the local malls, to walk their halls and ask for jobs at most of the stores.

He applied at a small coffee franchise where we knew one of the employees. He interviewed with the manager several times. He was encouraged.  They didn’t hire him.  Since we frequent the shop, one day I asked the manager to candidly tell me why he didn’t hire my son. To my surprise, he told me the truth that he didn’t feel enough upbeat energy coming from my son. Good information. I passed that on to my son. He took it in.

Finally, he got lucky. A local bakery that we frequent was opening a new store and café. I knew the owner and asked about it. He described his ambitious expansion plans and I asked would he be hiring. Application in hand, I brought it to my son who was in my car. He filled it out then and there which was a great change from his previous procrastination method. He then followed that up by going into the bakery, introduced himself to the owner, mentioned he was my son, and expressed his sincere desire to work. He did all of this with an enthusiasm heretofore reserved only when he was going to see his favorite rock band.

Two days later, he interviewed with the manager of the new store, and another day later he was hired.  He’s already worked several times and is learning the ropes. His expectation is that he’ll get regular hours once the new location is open which, naturally, keeps on getting delayed.  But, this time around, the manager is updating my son, and we all feel confident this job is real.

What advice did I give my son when this job came around?  And, what lessons can every teen take from my son’s laborious job search experiences, to date? I offer just these five:

1.    Don’t give up.

2.    Don’t wait to be told what to do. Always ask what help is needed. Make it clear that you are the “go-to person” whenever something needs to be done.

3.    Be available to work ALL the time. Obviously, school and other events will intrude, but keep those clear and mentioned up-front to the manager.  Everything else takes a back seat to the job.

4.    Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand how to do something! Better to ask than to make a mistake.

5.    Treat this job like it matters as much to you as it does to the owner.

Thankfully, my son has mostly adopted these attitudes.  I am confident he’ll do well in this job. While the job journey was not easy, he learned many lessons that will see him through the other likely ups and downs he, and we all, face in life.

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