Score your first job

It’s a tricky question for today’s teenagers: should you get a part-time job and build up some work experience, or focus on your schoolwork so you have the best chance to ace your grades? Employers and universities say that they actively look for work experience in applications, so a part-time job can look really positive on your CV. But every teenager is different – you need to balance the benefits of a job with making sure you still have plenty of time for homework, meeting up with friends and chilling out.

What are the plus points?

Babysitting, waiting tables, helping younger kids learn to swim – whatever you choose, a part-time job can give you more independence and help build a good work ethic for the future.

It can give you a whole new set of skills that will stay with you through life too, from teamwork and taking responsibility, to taking the initiative and improving your communication skills. And with money of your own, a job can help give you valuable financial lessons for the future, from weekly budgeting to saving for big items or future plans.

Which job?

Here are some typical part-time jobs that you could look for:

  • working in a cafe or fast food place
  • retail jobs with your local shop, supermarket or garden centre
  • odd jobs – washing cars, mowing lawns
  • babysitting
  • dog walking and dog/cat-sitting

Ask friends and family for ideas and contacts, check the local paper for adverts, look online and listen out for where your friends are working.

Ready to apply?

Applying for a job can be as easy as asking in your local shop about work, or talking to your neighbour about babysitting. But for some jobs you’ll need to write a CV and go for an interview.

Here are some typical interview questions to help you prepare:

  • Do you have any experience of this kind of work?
  • What general skills can you bring to this job?
  • What experience/responsibilities do you have that would help you do this job?
  • Tell me about your strengths
  • Tell me about your weaknesses
  • How do you work through your weaknesses?
  • Do you like to work alone or in a team?
  • Why do you want to work here in particular?

Teen job interviews will probably include questions about working with others and a willingness to learn. Before the interview, think about some examples of how you’ve worked with family members, school friends and teachers in the past. You can use anything from your life to highlight skills or experiences you already have – think sports teams, clubs, student councils, orchestras or even team project work in class.

Don’t know where to start? There’s some great advice on writing a CV, getting work experience and more on My World of Work (you’ll leave the Halifax site).

What about volunteering?

If it’s not easy to find a paid job, volunteering can provide similar and valuable experience that will look good on any future CV. It can be especially useful for a career where people skills are important.

Are there any rules about teens and work?

Term-time rules:

During term time at 16, you can work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
  • a maximum of 8 hours on Saturdays

School holiday rules:

16-year-olds can work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sundays


Once you’re 16 you should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which currently stands at £4.55 per hour. (2020/2021). 


Type of work:

You’re not allowed to work in betting shops, in most roles in pubs or in an environment that could be bad for your health, education or well-being. Contact your local council’s education department or education welfare service if you want to find out more.

You can find out more about the rules on GOV.UK (you’ll leave the Halifax site).

Information correct as at October 2020. 

Our top tips for teenagers on the job

  • Be on time – aim to get there a little early.
  • Dress for the job – make sure your clothes are clean, tidy and fit the job. Jeans and a sweatshirt are fine for babysitting or dog walking, but for waitressing or a retail job you might need something a bit smarter, perhaps a white shirt and black trousers or skirt. If in doubt, ask.
  • Listen carefully, speak clearly and remember to smile!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you want to learn.
  • Turn off your phone, or leave it at home.
  • This may be your first job, but it won’t be your last. There’s always something to learn and the skills you pick up now could well be useful for life.
  • And finally… make sure you create a good impression even when you’re leaving a job – your current employer might end up being a reference for a part-time or full-time job in the future.