The Best Advice For A Teenager Looking For a Job

mistakesI really enjoyed this article by James Altucher called “The Best Advice Ever To A Teenage Daughter Who Needs To Make Money“. His kid is considering taking an $8 an hour job, presumably in either the food or retail industry. Why not? The first three items on my complete job history were certainly along those lines, along with nearly everyone else including these comedians. But he has some alternative advice, here is just a snippet:

I said to her, instead of that: why don’t you go to Lynda.com or CodeAcademy.com and learn basic WordPress skills. You can make blogs for stores.

It would take you ONE DAY to learn the basics.

Then go from door to door to every store in town.

Say for $1000, plus $50 / month maintenance, you’ll make their blog or basic website for them and help them upkeep it. If they require a “shopping cart” then charge them $2500.

She frowned a little and said, “They will say No. They don’t need it.”

She doesn’t want anyone to say No to her. I can relate to that. I don’t like it when people say No to me either.

I said, “Ok, we have about 40 stores on this street. Let’s say only 2 say yes. That’s $2000. It will take you ten hours to do the work.

That’s $200 an hour instead of $8 an hour.

Now, a lot of people seem to think learning coding = rich kid these days. But I think his point is more about getting out there and “making something out of nothing”. Right now, a WordPress blog is probably the easiest way to do that (ahem). Also, it’s about just getting out there, trying some stuff, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you start a self-employed business, you will pick up most of the subsequent skills he talks about – accepting rejection, dealing with failure, salesmanship, communication, customer service, creativity, competitiveness.

If either of my daughters has that independent wrinkle in her brain like her old man does, I’d like to nurture it.

Here are some other money-making options that I’ve though of, although the environment may be different when they finally become teenagers.

  • Buy things at garage sales or local stores and then resell them on eBay or Amazon Marketplace.
  • Make your own crafts and sell on Etsy.
  • Start a stand at the local farmer’s market or weekend flea market.
  • Design or invent something and figure out how to get a factory in China to build it for you.
  • Start a YouTube channel (learn video production and editing skills).

On the other hand, I actually think a menial $8 an hour job is still working taking on, if only to experience firsthand how tough it is.

Comments

  1. It’s always better to have your cake and eat it too. Sure, you can learn all those skills by starting your own business, and for a teenager still living at home, it may be the better way to go. But adults know that Verizon, Comcast, the supermarket, power and water company won’t accept skills as payment. They want money. Starting one’s own business may give you skills, but the profits don’t start coming in until later, sometimes MUCH later; if they come at all. I need to eat TODAY. Plus, who would pay $1,000 plus $50/month maintenance for a blog? Today’s web hosting tools make it incredibly easily and almost free.
    I’d take that $8/hr job, and work on the business in my off hours.

    • Presumably the teenager living at home has their food and shelter assured, which provides them the luxury of going to high school rather than working a subsistence job (during the year), and perhaps even an opportunity to go to college. For a young person in that situation it is perfectly rational and arguably smarter financially to invest time and money in skills that will increase their lifetime total earnings–I’m thinking primarily of formal education.
      Since their summer earnings are probably spending money for discretionary things, the opportunity cost and financial risk associated with doing something entrepreneurial may never be lower than at this stage of their life.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I think it’s a great suggestion, even if all forty said no. Most people have to start a bunch of failed businesses before they start one that works.

    I do think it’s worth working full-time for at least a month or two at one truly lousy job to realize how important a good job it. I’m not sure working part-time at say, a bookstore in the mall, really sends that message, so I’m not sure it really has much value in that respect.

    In the middle class neighborhood I grew up in, cutting grass was the best way to make money as your own boss. Not get rich, obviously, but better than $4.50 an hour (min wage then). And for daughters, it sends a good message – even for teens, traditionally male jobs pay much better than traditionally female jobs.

  3. You do gain skill in that minimum $8 an hour job as well. Communication, teamwork, navigating a “bureaucracy” (if a national retailer) are things that come in handy down the road. Those in charge of hiring often want someone they can relate to and carry on a conversation with.

    • In my work, I hear first hand from those looking to hire engineers – electrical, mechanical and most often in computer science – that the “skill” they see missing most among graduates and those with graduate degrees that they are interviewing for positions are the “soft skills” of communication, teamwork, critical thinking and the ability to communicate outside the discipline.

      So much so that those same employers are asking faculty and departments to “teach” more of those skills. At every conference I attend and in meeting with advisory groups, this is a common theme. That is why it is non uncommon to find people with non-engineering backgrounds managing engineers. But an engineer with those skills really stands out in the hiring and promotion process.

      Plus, as you write, everyone should know firsthand just what those jobs are really like. In later years, you appreciate the people in those jobs and their work more, having been there yourself.

      • ttfitz says:

        At the engineering program my son graduated from – Va Tech (Go, Hokies!) – one of the required courses for graduation from the engineering school was Public Speaking. They found the same thing you are talking about, the need for engineers to be able to communicate effectively.

  4. My Great-Grandparents sold fresh butter and eggs from our tiny farm when I was in grade school sixty years ago. I’d sometimes help them by going from door-to-door in the nearby 90,000 population city. A fair number of people were unhappy with being disturbed and few wanted to buy anything, but we always ended up selling everything in a reasonably short time. This made me far less shy than other farm kids.

    I don’t advocate children doing exactly that today, but at some point young people should have the experience of asking lots of people to buy something. Dealing with rejection is a valuable lesson whenever it is learned. I sold Jr. High band candy to raise funds for new uniforms in the 7th grade and did very well. Most other kids wouldn’t dream of selling to strangers, much less in another school district.

    A few years later, when I was a teenage assistant manager in a local McDonald’s competitor I would sometimes offer a small bonus to whoever sold the most fries during a busy hour. Even learning how to best say “do you want fries with that?” is a useful skill with a much wider application than just boosting junk food sales.

    Being ready to deal with a wide range of reactions from customers, clients, other employees or any other variety of human is a huge advantage in nearly any job or career. A teen who has learned to stay calm and follow the script when being yelled at by a crazy person is well on the way to success.

  5. I think its a good idea for anyone to try both paths. A typical minimum wage type job is good work experience. But trying to start your own business is also a good idea and good experience. Also I’d say for starting your own business, you’ve really got nothing to lose so why not try it?

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