If they’re old enough to spend they’re old enough to earn!

One of the readers of this blog, a client contact, sent the following note:

I am curious to read about the experiences of teens getting into the job force – either part-time/full time, IT/Non-IT. With your four boys – I am sure you might have something interesting to share on this front. Love to read your perspective. Now, I am seeing my son go thru the job hunting process 🙂

My immediate response was to point her to the series of posts on “Landing a professional job“, to get things started. However, there is so much more to the question 🙂

Here we go…

I recall as a youngster, on my way home from school in the winter, with snow falling, commenting to my friends: Look at the money falling from the sky.

You see I had “clients” at a very young age who depended on me to shovel their walkways.

During the summer I cut our lawn and trimmed the grass around the house with hand clippers: weed-whackers weren’t yet invented.

I didn’t earn very much, but it certainly helped me to understand the value of a dollar – at a young age.

After I turned 15 my dad took me for a ride to our local Shop ‘N Save, where he introduced me to the store manager. Within seconds I found myself completing a job application and getting started the next day.

What just happened? 🙂

I’ll never forget my first day on the job. I learned how to properly “sack” groceries and assist customers to their vehicles. Then, after the store closed I learned how to stock and “face” shelves. “Facing” involves making sure all products are pulled forward to the edge of the shelf and stacked as neatly as possible.

Guess what section I was assigned? Baby food…

Do you recall those little jars? Not sure if baby food is still sold that way, but they were in my day. These things didn’t stack very well and when they were stacked they were definitely not stable. I knocked over and smashed at least 3 jars on my first night. During each breakage I had to do the walk of shame past my co-workers, to the back of the store to grab the mop bucket, walk back to my area, clean up the mess, then repeat the process to return the mop. How humiliating. I can still see my co-workers (many, buddies from high school) snickering the entire time 🙂

I thought for sure I was going to be fired, never again being able to re-enter the workforce. I found out later that this was expected (my initiation). And, I didn’t break as many as my predecessors had. So, I did pretty well after-all 🙂

After working at Shop ‘N Save for a couple years a buddy of mine, who worked for a mason and roofer, asked if I could cover for him while he was away on vacation. I gladly did so to haul in some extra cash ($5 per hour, under the table).

Little did I know how hard this work was going to be: mixing cement by hand, lugging cinder blocks or bundles of shingles up a ladder to the roof and whatever other miserable task that needed to be done…

However, 90% of the work was outside which I loved. And, more importantly, I was developing muscles 🙂

I ended up dropping the Shop ‘N Save gig and continued working as a mason’s helper each summer while I was in college.

Fast forward to current times…

The process of encouraging and helping (they would say “forcing”) our boys to get a job involved a slightly different tact for each.

Like me at that age, most teenagers really, really, REALLY do NOT want to walk into an establishment, seek out a manager, ask for a job application, complete it “on the spot” and then ask the manager for an interview to discuss job opportunities. It is just WAY too painful an experience.

So, what’s a parent to do, if they don’t do it themselves?

We must walk them through the entire process and get them a job!

This can involve visiting (with your teenager) the establishments you frequent (e.g., grocery store, Dunkin Donuts, Marshalls, gas station, etc.) or contacting your friend who is a general contractor.

I can tell you from personal experience, there is NOTHING like working for a general contractor to make a teenager realize how badly they need to go to college. They quickly come to this realization after they’ve been ordered to dig the “umpteenth” hole in the ground. Right boys? 🙂

A big thanks goes to Pete of Professional Building Services who, incidentally, runs an outstanding general contractor business in southern NH and northern MA.

Sometimes this search process will result in an application being filled out and the hiring manager saying to your teenager: “We’ll get back to you.

At this point you can hear the teenager’s deep sigh of relief and imagine the words going through their head: “Phew. We’ve done that and my parents are now off my back.”

They’ll then say something like: “I’m heading out now to hang with my friends.”

You see, once they’ve applied for a job they think they have it. It could be days, weeks or months away, but they are satisfied.


We go by the following guideline: You don’t have a job, until you have a job.

We then press on: Who are “we” going to contact next, until you are employed?

The good news is that through a combination of Cindy, myself and one of the brothers, each has found the other a job.

And, once they start hauling in their own cash they are hooked on the new freedom it provides. We, parents, then get to step aside 🙂

Finally, some may ask the following questions:

  1. Why is this so important?
  2. What is their motivation in this process to find and then work hard to keep their job?

My thinking is as follows…

Kids must learn the value of a dollar at a very young age. If they are old enough to spend it, they are old enough to earn it.

If they only spend, but don’t earn, they are a prime future candidate for the entitlement system, as they expect everything to be given to them. Totally unacceptable.

And, what is the motivation? Well, we “pretty much” ONLY provided the essentials to our boys:

  • Food
  • Decent clothing
  • Shelter
  • Health care
  • Anything we felt was educational

If they wanted the hottest new video game or toy, they could buy it with their own money. This also applied if they wanted a shirt, pants or sneakers that we felt was more costly than reasonable.

Birthdays and Christmases were an exception.

In closing, if they didn’t have the money, well – they had to earn it!

All the best!

2 thoughts on “If they’re old enough to spend they’re old enough to earn!

  1. beaverfood says:

    Good advice!

  2. Geeta Jakkaraju says:

    Thanks Craig for the post. Very good perspective and advice.

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