I was sitting at an elegant dinner a few years ago when the woman sitting on my right asked me, “What was your first job?” She later told me she uses this question often to break the ice. It works. Most of us love to reflect on our first job. Even if the experience is horrible—often precisely because it is horrible—getting your first job is an important rite of passage; a mark of independence that puts each of us on the path to adulthood.

This past spring my husband and I both were in complete agreement with our son Ben that this summer, his 16th, would be the year of his first job. But then our state began to lock down due to COVID-19 measures, and many stores and businesses did not have the option to operate. We began to wonder if he would have to wait.

Fortunately, my son is more of an optimist. He applied to jobs he found online, and then solicited my help to create a résumé to apply in person at local businesses. It was nearly July when a local family fun center posted on their electric reader board that they were hiring. Ben wanted this job. He went in, filled out an application, and was thrilled to get a call from a manager a few days later. After leaving her two unreturned messages, he returned in person. The manager interviewed him and hired him on the spot. My husband, waiting in the car, had the privilege of hearing “Dad, I got the job!”

Tween and teen jobs require investment and commitment from a parent. Like my son, I had a job before I had a driver’s license. As I run my son to and from work, I remember the commitment my parents made to do the same for me. When I was 11, my mother drove me to the strawberry fields at 5:30 a.m. and picked with me. My father-in-law helped my husband get a start by driving him around to mow lawns and lending him equipment. The dividends come in seeing your child hold his paycheck for the first time, helping him understand all those acronyms (i.e., FICA, WC, SS, etc.), and hearing his stories of challenges faced and met.

A first job is an important step for everyone. But for a homeschooled kid, it might be even more significant. When I was a homeschooled teen myself, I remember wondering: Would my skills hold up? Did I have the character to live my values? Would I feel part of the team as the “homeschooled kid”?

Image courtesy of author.

Ben's first day of work!

Our whole family took pride in Ben’s summer job, celebrating when he was trained on a new position, earned his first raise, and bought himself a laptop with his earnings. My daughters are already coming up with ideas for jobs they want in our community and watching his savings balance with a little envy. As a parent, I delight in watching him mature into an adult and discovering that he has a good work ethic.

Whether your first job was scooping ice cream, mowing lawns, or picking strawberries, I’m sure you learned something valuable there. Why not share that experience with your own children? You might just inspire a young entrepreneur. 

—Rachelle