Dos and Don’ts for Working Teens

Your child’s first summer job is a big deal. Whether they are a camp counselor, flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant or stocking shelves at a big box store, they have a brand new list of responsibilities. While the work may be easy, dealing with managers, customers and their new colleagues can be a challenge.

To help your child navigate the new world of work, we pulled together these top dos and don’ts for working teens. Following them will help your teen avoid summer job pitfalls and really stand out from the crowd. Help your working teens make the most of their summer!

Do:coffee shop

1. Dress the part. If you’re asked to wear a uniform, wear it. Even if it’s hideous. Adapting to workplace norms is a key part of on-the-job success. If you are able to choose your own clothing, be sure to follow the written dress code requirements and also carefully observe what fellow co-workers are wearing—especially those in positions higher than yours.

2. Be early. Being on time means you’re late. Aiming to arrive 10 minutes early gives you a cushion for unexpected parking or traffic hassles and allows you a few minutes to get collected before you start.

3. Deal with issues up front. Get the sense that your manager isn’t pleased with your performance? The best way to deal with it is to ask. You’ll likely find out it just is something about their style, but if there is an issue, such as your work performance, you’ve opened the door to discussing it. Either way, bringing up a potential issue yourself marks you as a responsible, mature employee.

4. Grin and bear it. Just as you might have teachers who aren’t your fave, not every manager is going to be the best. Here’s a little secret: managers might play favorites. Managers can be unfair. Managers can sometimes be incompetent. Learning to deal with people who are difficult or challenging to please is a crucial life skill.


1. Use your phone. Even if things are slow. Even if your manager isn’t around, don’t take out your phone. The one time you do, that’s the time your supervisor is just bound to stop by unexpectedly. If it’s going to be too tempting, just leave it in your car and retrieve messages on your break.

2. Encourage visits. Whether you work at the local golf club or ice cream parlor, ask your friends and family to stay away. It is annoying to your manager and other patrons if you stop to chat, and it can be awkward if friends are pressuring you for discounts. Parents, even though we know you really want to check out your child at their job, resist the urge. It can be distracting and embarrassing.

3. Abuse your breaks. If your break is 15 minutes, make sure it’s only 15 minutes. This is a great time to check your phone, text a friend or have a snack. You don’t want to be the employee who is always disappearing during a break and then rushing back. Managers will notice.

4. Complain about job requirements or fellow employees. There are likely to be aspects of your job you don’t care for, and possibly co-workers with whom you don’t mesh. This, too, is part of life. A cheery, can-do attitude with customers, coworkers and supervisors can get you farther than you can imagine. Note: The one area where you should always speak up is if a fellow employee is doing something that makes you feel unsafe or is illegal.

Whether your child’s summer job is a stepping stone to a future career, or just a way to earn some latte money for the coming year, helping them learn how to put in a little extra effort can set them apart and set them up for future professional success. Make sure your working teens are taking the right steps this summer by following our do’s and don’ts!


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