How To Navigate Your Job Search in High School
High school provides a plethora of new opportunities to most students. There are new clubs to join, more extracurriculars to participate in, and a wide variety of advanced coursework and standardized tests coming your way. Amidst the possibilities, you may consider finding a job. There are many reasons why working in high school is beneficial.
For starters, you’ll get to earn some money. Granted, many places that employ high school students don’t pay an especially high salary; however, if you manage your money well and don’t spend it all immediately, you could cover a sizable chunk of your college costs.
In addition, working a steady job, regardless of what the job is, is a great addition to your college resume. Having previous employment indicates to an admissions committee that you are able to manage your time effectively, show responsibility, and demonstrate skills that are applicable in the real world.
Also, if you are a good employee, you may find that your employer is willing to write you a letter of recommendation, which could be useful when you try to get a job in the future or when a college application has an optional letter of recommendation.
Lastly, many students find that having a job in high school is a transformative experience because it helps them build valuable skills for college and the real world. By juggling a job, schoolwork, and extracurriculars, you learn how to budget your time and become more efficient.
Depending on the job you get, you may also gain particular skills that are specific to your work. For example, a high school piano teacher may find that they become a better pianist by teaching other students. A cashier at a local restaurant may find themselves better at quick arithmetic and simple calculations. All of these will help you as you enter college and adulthood.
These are just a few reasons to get a job in high school. For more help in deciding whether getting a job in high school is the right choice for you, see our Guide to Jobs You Can Work as a High School Student.
If you have decided that you definitely want a job, however, here’s a basic guide to how to structure your job search. You’ll find some neat tips about where to look, some legal and logistical issues you need to be aware of, along with some key resume-building resources.
Where do I look to find a job during high school?
A benefit of living in the digital age is that students no longer have to walk through their community looking for “Help Wanted” signs in order to find employment. While this is an option, it’s time-consuming and is probably not the most efficient way of seeing which positions are available.
Thus, our first recommendation when searching for a job is to start with the people you know — that is your friends, parents, relatives, and neighbors. Talk to your friends who already have jobs about openings in their business or resources they used to get a job.
Ask your parents, relatives, and neighbors who have jobs at smaller businesses if there is an entry-level position open. If they work for a larger company, you can still ask. You may find, however, that larger businesses do not accept high school applicants.
Another resource by which you may be able to find a position is through your extracurricular activities. For more information on what we mean by extracurriculars, check our our blog post What Counts as an Extracurricular? Perhaps your piano teacher needs an assistant or your club sponsor knows of a job opening. Finding a job related to your extracurriculars is especially useful for colleges, as it shows that you were able to innovatively turn a hobby into a way to make money.
You can also contact your high school counseling office and see if they have any suggestions or resources about jobs in high school. Some counselors have connections with employers who are hiring and are willing to help you prepare for a job interview.
If asking people to help you find a job doesn’t work, try finding local sources of employment search. This includes the employment section of your local newspaper or any ads you may find on bulletin boards at your local grocery store or community center. Many community-specific locations have job advertisements from local businesses close to you.
Finally, if searching for a job through your local community doesn’t work, the Internet is your friend. There are websites such as Indeed, Monster, and SnagaJob that cater to various job needs on a national and global scale.
These are great places to start; however, try and find some community-specific job search engines. The more local a businesses is, the more likely it is that they are willing to hire high school students. For example, Localwise is an online job board that caters specifically to jobs in local businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Simply Hired also focuses on local jobs in specific cities around the United States.
When commencing your job search, especially online, be careful. Not all jobs out there are legitimate and many may not be safe. Be sure that the job you are applying for is what you are expecting before you give away any personal information or sign any sort of employment agreement.
The easiest way to ensure a job’s safety and legitimacy is to meet with the employer in person or at the business so that you can judge whether the job seems like a good opportunity. You can also ask a past or current employee about their experiences working for that business if you can find one.
What age restrictions might affect my job options?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets specific regulations for minors (anyone under the age of 18) working in jobs. The most important of these is the age standard, which sets 14 years of age as the minimum age for employment and limits the number of hours an individual under the age of 16 can work (see the United States Department of Labor website for more details).
In addition, each state has its own regulations regarding the employment of minors. If state and federal law overlap, the law that is more protective of the minor always takes precedence. Be sure to check the legislation in your state to make sure you are eligible to work.
As a result of these regulations, many employers find it too difficult or risky to hire students who are under the age of 16 regardless of how qualified they are for the position. You should clarify any employer-specific age requirements before you submit an application.
Also keep in mind that there are local laws that may prevent minors from working at certain hours. Some localities have juvenile curfew laws that generally do not allow minors to be seen in public establishments from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM. These laws vary depending on where you live, so be sure to research curfew laws in your specific area and try to find work that doesn’t require you to work either late night or early morning.
Lastly, if you are planning on working a job that involves driving or a driving commute, make sure you are adhering to local licensing laws. Do not try to drive if you are not old enough to get your driver’s license or haven’t taken the test yet. If you have your permit, make sure a legal adult is in the car with you at all times when driving.
Do not let all these working age restrictions discourage you. The laws are reasonable, and most local jobs comply with federal and state requirements. As long as you do your research, they should not pose a significant obstacle in your job search.
What do I need to know to fill out an application?
Thankfully, not much. Job applications for high school-level jobs are not like college applications — they are not long; there are generally no essays; and they won’t ask you for an application fee.
All you will need when you’re going in to fill out a job application is basic demographic information about yourself (your address, phone number, list of references, ID, etc.) and your resume.
When filling out an application, make sure you address everything they ask for and don’t leave anything blank. The easiest way to get rejected from a job is to have an incomplete application. If you have any questions about what to fill in, ask or call the hiring manager. It usually won’t hurt your job prospects to clarify what an employer is asking for.
Note that it may take some time for you to hear back after you’ve submitted your application. The standard time to hear back is two to three weeks, but it could be shorter or longer depending on the employer. While you’re waiting, stay calm, apply to other jobs, or start thinking about alternative plans like volunteer work and unpaid internships.
Your employer may ask you for an interview. If this happens, don’t freak out and overthink it. The employer is already interested in you — they just want to ask you some questions in person to gauge whether you are the right fit for the job.
At the same time, be sure to prepare for the interview. Show up in professional attire, think briefly about how you would answer the most common interview questions, and prepare informed questions for the interviewer on the position that couldn’t be answered by a quick look through the company or organization’s web site.
How do I create my resume when I haven’t held a job before?
Odds are, if you’re a high school student, you don’t have a ton of work experience. That’s okay. There are other accomplishments you can put on your resume that indicate your work-applicable skills.
When determining what to put on your resume, think specifically about your extracurriculars and volunteer history. What have you accomplished that indicates that you’re responsible, reliable, and have leadership skills?
Some things to highlight are leadership positions, significant contributions you’ve made to an organization, and any skills that have to do with the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a position involving music and you’re a part of the school orchestra, make sure that’s at the top of your resume.
Regardless of what you choose to highlight on your resume, be sure to include your educational history: your GPA, current class rank, expected date of graduation, etc. Also, try to keep your resume to only one page. Employers like resumes to be concise and easy to skim.
If you’re creating your resume and you think it may not be compelling enough, you can try to include a recommendation letter from a respected adult. This adult should be a coach, teacher, counselor, or mentor. It should NOT be a parent or someone related to you.
For more information on how to craft the perfect resume, see these 5 steps to a rad resume.
Finding a job as a high school student is easier than you think. So long as you adhere to all of the age restrictions and follow the application steps perfectly, you will be well on your way to finding a great high school job.
If you’d like to read more about the high school job search and how you can optimize your prospects, check out these blog posts:
Still need help? CollegeVine is here for you!
Check out our Mentorship Program, where you’ll be paired with a mentor from a top college based on our proprietary personality questionnaire and matching algorithm. He or she will work with you for one year to discover your interests, develop self-motivation, and become a high-achieving individual.
Previous participants in our mentorship program have worked with their mentors to start their own companies, create Intel and Siemens winning projects, publish research, create charity organizations, and more. Learn more about our Mentorship Program.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.