Student Advice About Jobs in High School

Getting a part-time job is a common experience for high school students across the United States. It gives them a sense of responsibility and independence, as well as some income to save up for whatever they please. Some students find a job at a local restaurant as a server or waiter/waitress. Others might spend their afternoons babysitting or mowing neighbor’s lawns. However you choose to earn your money, I highly recommend finding some kind of job at some point in your high school career so you can get a peek at how working as an adult might work.

I got my first real job in June of 2022, but I had been babysitting on occasion for a few years prior. I love having that extra source of money to spend on things I want, while also earning enough to put aside for savings so eventually I can get a car or pay for college. I also love being able to meet people my age from different schools and have fun with them while we keep the store maintained. 

If you’re looking to get a part-time job and don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place! I asked a few students from different grades who work in different environments about their experiences in a part-time job and what advice they would give to people like you. 

Jacques Watteau, a senior, has been working at Squisito in Burtonsville since the summer of 2021. Nadia Martin, a junior, was just employed four months ago and works as a hostess. Brian Martinez, also a junior, works as a shoe sales associate for Champs Sports. Samantha Ryan, a junior, works during the summer as a lifeguard at Calverton Swim Club.

What is your favorite part of working?

Jacques: My coworkers! Most of them are pretty great, I have a couple of really nice friends. Also, taking the food when I’m done.

Nadia: I like the people I work with, but they’re definitely just work friends.

Brian: I really enjoy being able to meet new people every day. It’s really made me realize how many unique and different people there are in our world. Another thing I love about it is the independence to spend my own money after getting a paycheck.

Samantha: My favorite part of working is being able to get paid for sitting around 75% of the time and spending time with friends.

What is your least favorite part of working?

Jacques: Definitely the demographic of people who come in as customers, it often leans towards old white, mean conservative people. One time I served this lady who was misled by a coupon for our restaurant and she mentioned that her husband was a lawyer and threatened to sue us. I never experienced that before until I worked in a restaurant.

Nadia: Being a hostess, people aren’t always nice…so I’d say the worst part is the rude guests.

Brian: It’s very difficult to help a rude customer. Even though I clearly don’t know all the answers, a few customers will still find a way to blame me for how a shoe is priced, or for how dirty a shoe is. This does annoy me a bit, but other than that there isn’t much I hate about it.

Samantha: My least favorite part of working is taking out the trash.

How do you balance work, school, and other activities?

Jacques: Well last year, I was really stressed out because I was working a lot (3-4 days a week). Now I usually work three days a week at the most, on the weekends I’ll work in the morning and if I’m scheduled after school I’ll go in at around 5 pm. That makes it easier for me, I feel like I’ve found a good balance.

Nadia: During sports seasons I usually work one or two days a week max, but usually I’ll try to do homework during free time at school, including lunch, if I know I have to work that night. I also plan out my week and designate certain assignments for certain days, as well as decide in advance what I’m going to push to the weekend.

Brian: It was very difficult to balance school, wrestling, and work at the same time but it was possible. What helped me get through it all was my rigid schedule. I would write all my current and future assignments down and make sure to do as much work as possible at school. Now that wrestling has ended, I am able to work right after school. I usually close the store and get home around 7 pm on weekdays. I am able to get all my work done, but I can space out my schedule a bit more to accommodate my schoolwork. 

Samantha: It is quite easy. I only put down my availability when I know I can balance it. Since there are a lot of life guards, it’s not too hard to get the hours of my preference.

What kind of connections/friendships have you made with your coworkers?

Jacques: My best friend actually got me the job, since she worked there before me, and we’re really close. I met another one of my best friends through my job too, and she’s really nice. The people I’ve met here are definitely really great!

Nadia: I got the job because my friend told me I should come work with her, but I reconnected with some people I knew years ago who coincidentally worked at the same place as me, as well as just the overall friendly people I work with, especially the other hostesses, servers, and bartenders.

Brian: The relationships I have formed with my coworkers have been really fun. Every time I reunite with them after a while of not seeing each other they have a plethora of stories about the random occurrences that have happened in the store while I was gone. 

Samantha: I have made many friendships. Even ones that extend past work. I’ve made friends with those at other schools and even become friends with their siblings. 

Was it easy or difficult for you to find a part-time job in Montgomery County?

Jacques: I found it very difficult, I was applying for jobs in the Spring of 2021 because I thought plenty of places would be hiring as they started opening up again after quarantine. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who worked at my job, so I kind of had a good word put in.

Nadia: Difficult, I think I applied to like 10 places! Granted, I was applying during the holiday season when the college kids were home, but I really only think I got the job I did because I had a friend there (thankful for her!)

Brian: Not easy at all. I had to apply to just about every local place you could think of. My older sister has previously worked for Champs so she was able to get me an interview, and I feel that is the only reason I was able to get a job.

Samantha: It was pretty easy to find it. Lifeguards are in high demand. Getting hired wasn’t a problem. I was offered a spot right after I got my certification.

If you could change one thing about your experience working, what would it be?

Jacques: I wish there wasn’t so much of a reliance on the teen workers at my job, since a lot of us are in high school and can’t just work whenever. I wish more adults would be hired so we wouldn’t get asked to come in during school.

Nadia: I wish I started earlier, preferably before junior year! I think it wasn’t the smartest for me to get a job when my school life was also at its most difficult point, but I am still glad I got one. I just think I could have put less stress on myself if working wasn’t “new” to me this school year.

Brian: My work hours. It can be very challenging to fit all of my schoolwork in at night after I come home from work. I wish I was able to work whenever I wanted so that I could base my work schedule on the amount of school work that was given to me in a day. 

Samantha: If I could change one thing, I would probably try and find a different job better suited for me. I love lifeguarding but it’s not for me. But it works great as a first job.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a part-time job?

Jacques: If you know any friends who work anywhere, like a retail or food job, talk to them first, because it’s going to be easier to get a job if you know someone there. A bunch of people are just gonna say no if you just start filling out applications everywhere, so definitely try to find someone you know because it makes finding a job easier, especially if it’s your first job. 

Nadia: Know what you want to do and what you’re good at (ex. people skills, kids, selling things), without being too picky, and apply apply apply! You probably won’t get the first job you apply for, but you will get one! And be thoughtful of when you’re applying, too!

Brian: Be persistent. There will be times when you want to stop searching for the job you want but don’t stop. Call back managers and check in on your application through email updates. Hiring managers love to see persistence in potential candidates for the job. Also, make sure that your schedule has hours where you can manage your social, school, and work. This may take some time to get used to but having control over all three is very important. 

Samantha: I would tell them to definitely try and make friends. It makes the time go by so much faster and makes work a little more fun.

All in all, having a part time job is a lot easier if you know people who can help you get a job and if you can make friends. It can be difficult at first, but having a job is a valuable learning experience and you won’t regret it.