This article is from the second issue of CommBank's magazine, Brighter.

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Minimum working ages are set by state governments and therefore differ around the country but, in general, restrictions apply to the number of hours and types of work for under 15s. Pay varies based on age, industry, basis of employment and type of work. But, as a guide, fast food casuals 15 and under earn $11.69 per hour, while 15 and under retail casuals earn $13.15 an hour. Businesses need to pay in line with the relevant award or enterprise agreement, which will also stipulate conditions such as weekend or public holiday rates, meal breaks and allowances. You can check pay rates using the Find my Award tool on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

The benefits

“In the workplace a teenager is seen as an employee, not a child or student, and that’s empowering and confidence- boosting,” says youth mindset coach, author and speaker Claire Eaton. There are other benefits, too. “Working with people from different places and of different ages helps develop a sense of empathy and understanding,” says Eaton. And for parents still on the fence, there’s this encouraging fact: “Working also helps teens build executive functioning skills, such as prioritising tasks, problem-solving, punctuality and time-management.”

Start the search

While retail and hospitality roles are obvious choices for a first job, career development expert Helen Green says teens should think outside the box. “They often have hobbies that lend themselves to work, such as sports umpiring or coaching, dance teaching, mowing lawns or babysitting, while local hairdressers, vets or florists can employ teens for unskilled work.”

Word-of-mouth is often the best way to find a job so teens should start by telling family and friends they’re looking. “Online job-search websites, including Seek and Indeed, frequently advertise casual jobs, while fast-food chains and supermarkets usually post vacancies on their own websites.” These days, it’s commonplace to apply via an online portal so do teens need to have a resume? Green says it’s still a job-seeking essential. “Teens can also approach local businesses directly for work and having a one-page resume to leave is important.”

Offer the right support

While it’s tempting to micromanage, both experts caution against taking over the job search for your teen. “Rather than do it for them, you want to do it with them,” says Eaton.

This might include helping them put together their resume, conducting a mock interview for them or driving them to businesses they’re interested in approaching for work.

Do the paperwork

There is going to be some admin support required: you can help your teen apply for a tax file number on the Australian Taxation Office website. They’ll also need a bank account to be paid into and, ideally, a savings account, too. Commonwealth Bank’s Everyday Account Smart Access for over 14s has no account fees for teens, comes with a debit Mastercard and provides digital banking tools to help track spending and create budgets. The Youthsaver account for under 18s is a fee-free savings account that pays bonus interest if the balance grows each month. If they’re under 14 you’ll need to open an account for them while over 14s can apply themselves.

Share your wisdom

As problems come up, your teen may need you to advocate on their behalf. “If it involves bullying, underpayment, discrimination or sexual harassment it’s appropriate for a parent to step in and you may need to consult the Fair Work Ombudsman,” says Green.

But if the problem is simpler, your advice is probably all that’s required. Discuss whether they can change their attitude or approach to the task or person that’s troubling them, says Eaton. “But if it’s having an impact on their mental health, it’s OK to leave the job. They’ll learn as much from the negative experiences as they will from the positive ones.”

Strike balance

A common concern among parents is that a job might interfere with their schoolwork. “Data tells us that working up to 10 hours a week is the sweet spot for balancing work with other commitments, such as school, sport, friendships, family and homework,” says Eaton. But as a parent it’s important to set boundaries and emphasise that school is the top priority.

 What a teen should include on their resume

  • Date of birth, school, year level and contact details.
  • A statement about their strengths referencing keywords from the job ad.
  • Details of volunteering or work experience.
  • Information about sporting/extracurricular interests.
  • Information about leadership positions/ achievements.
  • Their availability if it’s limited to certain days or hours.
  • References, such as a sports coach, who can vouch for their character.

Story by Michelle Bowes.

Read more articles from Brighter magazine.

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