‘Get a job’ is easier said than done: A teen’s struggle to find their place in the workforce

For young adults, finding a job without any existing experience can be difficult and their abilities are often underestimated by employers.


Photo by Ariana Jorden

Teens find themselves filling out many job applications, hoping to be hired.

Being a teenager comes with a significant level of independence as you make the transition from being a child into a functioning adult. One stepping stone into the world of adulthood is gaining real work experience for the very first time. The first job is an exciting moment for a teen and a great accomplishment. But for some teens, this proud moment doesn’t come too easy. A polite attitude with a smile, and even a resume with school activities and community service listed may not often be enough for a teenager to get their foot through the door of a potential job.
Many teenagers have a hard time finding their very first job for the same reason that they want it, they have never had one before. Their lack of experience can put off a lot of employers and make it very difficult for them to get hired. But how can they even begin to gain experience if not one place will give them a chance?
“I believe teens can have trouble getting hired because we ‘don’t have enough experience.’ Some of us have only had volunteer experience, while others may have not taken the time to do community service. Even with volunteer experience, it is hard to get hired because often we’re portrayed as ‘irresponsible,’ ‘lazy,’ or simply wanting a job to get money and irresponsibly spend it. Adults don’t realize that there are teens who want to work to get experience that will benefit us in the future, to be able to save up for college, and for very personal reasons,” Cynthia Cisneros (12) said.
Teenagers could certainly benefit from having a job. Not only would they be earning money to buy things that they would like or save up tuition money, but having a job would teach them important skills that are valuable and would aid them for the rest of their lives. Discipline, timeliness, cooperation, and patience are among the crucial life skills that teenagers will become equipped with at their first job. Having a job would provide teens with a sense of security, knowing that they have money in their pockets that they made independently, and a team behind them that they can rely on to learn from.
“As a teen going into adulthood it’s beneficial to have the experience of a job because of the lessons you will learn in the terms of money, time and responsibility. Money can be the main focus but with the money and the job comes a whole lot of responsibility. You have to know how to maintain money and relationships at work as well as a good work ethic,” Andrea Gonzalez (12) said.
Many employers carry the mindset that teens are still not mature enough to put their full trust in, and for this reason only belong in a classroom, or at the most, behind a counter calling out food orders or ringing up clothes instead of doing something more labor intensive.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, 58% of teenagers ages 16 to 19 in 1979 were employed, and later in 2011 after the Great Recession, 34% of teens were employed and the percentage has been steadily decreasing since. There are several theories as to why this could be, but school course load is believed to be the biggest reason for the fall in teen employment nationwide. It also doesn’t help that some employers are reluctant to hire teens with no prior job experience that is so hard for them to gain in the first place.
“An employer might look (teens) over for various reasons: often they may be looking for someone who has more experience, who isn’t as young as 16 or 17, in addition to wanting someone who can work full-time, as most teens usually are part-time workers as we’re still in school. It’s rather ironic that most employers are looking to hire those with experience, yet how can a teen get experience when they’re being denied?” Cisneros (12) said.
The reputation that teenagers have for being rebellious or immature does not account for the many teens who are hardworking individuals that would like to transfer their dedication usually reserved for the classroom into a workplace environment. Teens are young, but being a teenager in itself is about growing in your knowledge of how to navigate the world, finding your passions, and learning how to be responsible as well as learning from mistakes. If more teens were given a chance by employers, they would be able to grow from their working experience and would have an even greater likelihood of fulfilling their goals later on and becoming the adults that they are capable of being. All in all, you should give yourself a pat on the back for having a job. Whether you are a babysitter, employed at a chain restaurant, a department store, or anywhere else, you should be proud of gaining independence and learning responsibility. If you would like to have a job but are having difficulties getting hired, keep trying and putting yourself out there, because sooner or later it will pay off. You can also visit the College and Career Center on campus once open or online. There, you can get advice on applying for jobs, and find out which places are currently hiring.