Part-Time Job Tips for Families with Teenagers – by Sarah Barnett

Summer camp aides and leaders often become role models for their campers
Summer camp aides and leaders often become role models for their campers

Manassas Park Parks and Recreation Operations Manager Sarah BarnettI have worked as a supervisor in the Aquatics field for over 10 years. During that time, I have hired thousands of teenagers for part-time summer jobs as lifeguards and aquatics staff. I know that 99% of my summer hires are not going to embark upon a career in the Aquatics field.  While it is important that I teach them everything I can about lifeguarding and water park/pool operations, I feel it is equally as important to teach teenagers how to have a successful summer work experience.

I feel strongly that parents should not force teenagers to get a summer job. While gaining job experience is an important life skill, when somebody doesn’t feel connected to their job, they’re just not going to have a worthwhile experience. There are lots of alternatives to jobs that provide valuable experience such as volunteering, athletics, and social organizations. It’s best for parents and teens to explore all these options and decide together what would be the best fit for them. When a person is vested in the organization, they’ll have a much more rewarding experience and make better connections with the people they meet.

It is a telltale sign when a parent calls me to inquire about a job for their teen.  It tells me that the teen does not want a job, or hasn’t developed the communication skills we need for our various positions.  I tell my employees at orientation, that their parents are awesome, but I hired them, so I only want to communicate with them, not their parents. Some parents have directly requested their teen’s schedule from me, but I politely decline. Part of the work experience is learning how to manage your own schedule, and I think it’s important to hold my employee (not their parents) accountable for it.

Before applying for a job, teens need to review their schedule for the entire summer. If more than 2 weeks are planned for vacation, it might be best to rethink summer employment. I’ve interviewed candidates who didn’t realize until during the interview how limited their availability would be due to vacation and sports practices. Discussing schedules ahead of time can help prepare teens for their interview and make a better decision about summer employment.

Applying early is key to successfully securing a job. Most summer employers start recruiting and hiring in early March. Teens who wait to apply until school is out for the summer might be too late to find a job.

Searching “job interview questions for teens” online reveals a plethora of possible questions.  Practice the questions that are most applicable to the job.  Be sure to wear presentable clothing and be ready to give a firm handshake.  When I receive a thank you note or email following the interview, those candidates always stand out to me.

Since employers are required to e-verify their employees within a few days of hiring, teens need to have their I-9 documents ready. Employers need to see (and usually make copies of) acceptable forms of Identification for the I-9 document.  For most teens, these documents are usually a school ID (or Driver’s License if they have one) and either their Social Security Card or Birth Certificate.  Employers must terminate any employee not verified in the first few days after the initial hire.  Click here for a full list of acceptable documents.

Only under extenuating circumstances, should parents reach out to their child’s employer to discuss workplace issues.  Most of the time, employers are not allowed to talk to parents about the employee or situations at the workplace due to confidentiality policies. Instead, parents should coach their teens on how to talk to their employer about any issues. Employers have greater respect for teens when they have the confidence to discuss the issue directly. Communication skills are important and are refined all throughout life!

Good luck and I hope to see your application in the future!

Sarah Barnett is the Operations/Aquatics Manager for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at (703)335-8872 or via email at

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