As a former high school teacher, I had students ranging from 16-19 who had book smarts but not simple life skills or job etiquette. I told them from day one that no matter what they learned about history, I wanted them to, above all, walk out of my classroom with organization strategies, the ability to communicate verbally and in written form, and with confidence to be able to showcase what they know instead of what they didn’t.
We worked through this all year each year.
I did this with firm expectations of organization and binder checks, with projects that asked them to get in front of their peers to speak, and with tests that were more open ended to allow them to share the tidbits they learned instead of the details they forgot.
But these are just some of the skills kids need before having a big job or internship. In fact there are several things we can do for our kids and students to help them prepare with the skills and the politeness to not just make a great first impression, but to excel in the workforce.
Etiquette for teens to learn before their first job
A first job or internship is a huge step in a teen’s life. They’re starting to learn about how things function in the “real world” and what will be expected of them later in life when they start a career.
It can be a scary time for them, yet, at the same time, exciting. What their first job will teach them is more than just what’s expected of them at work, but also how to manage the money they earn, how to treat their co-workers with respect, and how to impress their boss so they can earn bonuses, perks, and promotions.
There’s a lot of pressure and it can either build their confidence or tear it down. Here are some great etiquette tips for your teens to learn before they start their first job so they can feel confident and become a valued employee.
- Respect a schedule
Job etiquette begins with being punctual and accountable for their job. As the saying goes, “early is on time, on time is late.”
Teach your teen to plan to arrive at their job at least 5 minutes before their scheduled shift time so they can put their belongings in their locker, change into their uniform if necessary, and be ready to start work on time.
They also need to understand that they can’t leave work without the permission of their boss. And, if they need to miss a shift, they need to contact their boss with plenty of notice and, if possible, find someone to cover for them.
Furthermore, they have to learn to give their employers the courtesy of knowing when they’ll be gone in advance. This can be for a vacation or if they get stuck in traffic.
In fact, I also remember the first time I had a student observation where I had to go into a classroom full of middle schoolers. I mapped out the route and planned my day, giving myself a 25 minute cushion to be on time but also catch a breath before walking in the door. And then I hit traffic.
So instead of being 25 minutes early, I was ten minutes late. And giving them a quick phone call to let them know it was out of my control was better than simply walking in late with no notice.
- Take pride in appearances and professional attire
How your teen dresses for work will say a lot about how much they respect their job. Work clothes should be clean and wrinkle-free, without any logos or offensive phrases. Personal hygiene is of the utmost importance. They need to shower regularly, use deodorant, comb their hair, and keep their fingernails trimmed and clean. Also, if they work around food, they should avoid perfume and cologne.
They should refer to their employee handbook for guidelines of what kind of work attire is expected of them.
And if there are no expectations a good rule of thumb is to dress for the job they want even if it’s not the job they have.
- Work is a screen-free zone
Your teen’s full attention should be given to their job without the distractions of a cellphone, social media, and texting. In fact, most employers don’t allow cellphones during working hours. But it’s important to even set personal boundaries whether they do or not. Like will the phone even enter the building?
Setting a code of conduct is also important when discussing how to handle hardships at their place of employment. They should also respect their position enough by avoiding any negative comments and posts about their job to their social media sites and work directly with those above them.
- Work is about work
Personal problems don’t have a place in the workplace and discussing them can cause conflict with co-workers. Teach your teen to deal with conflicts privately, and, if necessary, with the help of a manager. Or discuss them with you at home.
At work, their focus should be on the customers. They need to greet each customer with a smile and positive attitude, acknowledging their presence and giving them their full attention.
- Learn from mistakes
First jobs are going to come with mistakes. It’s important for your teen to learn to take responsibility for those mistakes, apologize, and learn from them. If their unsure of what they did wrong, they need to ask their manager for more direction and explanation. It’s the only way they can improve.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!