Navigating the teenage workforce: a manifesto

Izzy Wagener, design editor

As the opening of the labor market aligns with a labor shortage, teenagers may find themselves able to ask for more accommodations at their workplaces; however, this comes with the added difficulties of a smaller workforce. Despite being highly sought after by businesses, first-time workers are often predisposed to exploitation. It’s more important now than ever that teenage workers know how and when to advocate for themselves in the workplace. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

Be prepared for rejection

Applying for jobs, even when there are many available, can be a stressful and disappointing experience. More often than not, potential employers won’t take the time to email you back unless they want to schedule an interview; it’s possible they might go months without replying—if they respond at all. If you’re determined to find a job, don’t be discouraged. Calling and talking to people face-to-face also leaves a more memorable impression than filling out an online form. 


You decide how often you want to work

Every job’s scheduling works differently, but it’s not uncommon for managers to overschedule their workers when there’s a lack of employees. Know that it’s usually possible to change your availability. Even if you don’t have scheduling conflicts with your work, that doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to work every time you’re available. 


Requesting time off doesn’t require a valid excuse 

In addition to your regular schedule, you have flexibility in the time you take off. Although it may feel odd to request time off for something as simple as spending time with friends or going to a school event, teenagers shouldn’t feel as if there are only certain kinds of acceptable excuses for taking time off. Your boss doesn’t have the right to deny you time off based on what it’s used for.  


Don’t take ill-mannered customers personally 

No amount of preparation will ever be able to prepare customer service workers for patrons screaming in their face. Rude customers are inevitable. Remember that this is rarely your fault, and even if you did make a mistake, it doesn’t justify mistreatment. You always have the ability to seek help from a manager if you feel uncomfortable in your workplace. 


If all else fails, quit

Though you may be forced to contend with the sense of failure attached to quitting, and the implications of a work ethic that would compel people to “grin and bear it,” staying at a bad job is rarely worth it in the end. If you’re not able to resolve issues at your job, put in your two weeks notice, and don’t feel guilty about quitting. There are plenty more out there.