We have compiled some practice tips for families and teens preparing for real life job scenarios
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Let Me Check My Schedule…
Being able to follow a schedule is one of the many valuable (and sometimes difficult) life skills that teens need to learn, in order to help in their transition to independence. At home and during school, many teens might take for granted the tools that are naturally in place to help them remember what to do throughout the day (e.g., school bells). In the work force those tools won’t be as readily available. Many employers expect employees to be able to take lunch breaks and 10-15 minutes breaks on their own without having to remind them on a daily basis. Being able to follow those schedules can be a strong factor in keeping their job.
Learning how to call in to your company for an absence is a skill that would be beneficial to anyone, in case of an emergency or illness. With supervision, parents can have their teens practice calling in their own absences to school. If an administrator wants to talk to an adult, parents can be right there next to them and they can hand over the phone. “No call, no show” is a term used in the work force which categorizes an employee for not showing up to work for a schedule shift and not calling in their absence. Something as simple as not calling in an absence has cost many people their job—be prepared by practicing this skill in advance!
Where are your papers?!
Teens that are close to or getting ready to join the workforce should familiarize themselves with the typical paperwork employers want to be filled out. Parents can go online and print out documents (such as W-4 forms) to go over and practice filling out with a young adult preparing for a job. They should get familiar with the basic information that will be required by many forms, such as: their social security cards, medical forms, and identification card. Parents can also share their pay stubs and go over different portions of the stubs with their teens so that they are able to read it on their own.
Being able to assess your own skills and work production can be useful for teens to be able to negotiate with employers when they enter the workforce. Knowing the expectation for work and assessing if they’re producing more or less will enable them to be able to advocate for themselves in the future for raises or promotions. Parents can have teens self evaluate school work such as essays in terms of length and quality. If your teen is involved with after school programs or sports, have them evaluate themselves in terms of leadership roles and their contribution to the team or program. Have your teen look at their peers and try to assess how they think they are doing compared to others. You can also set up meetings with coaches, teachers, and counselors to be able to get some critical feedback.
Which Department Is That?
The majority of companies run in a very similar fashion and each company has departments where employees can go to for a particular issue. Parents can go over the different departments that are typical, such as: administration, human resources, finance or accounting, operations, research and development, and sales and marketing. If your teen has a general understanding of what these departments do, when it comes time to handle a particular issue, they will already have a sense of where to go without getting the run around.
When you’re given a task and you do not really understand it, ASK QUESTIONS! Most of the time employees hold back from asking questions because they do not want to seem like they’re incapable of doing what is asked of them, and this applies to everyone. Asking questions can actually be doing the opposite. It shows the employer that you care about producing quality work that is up to the company’s standard. It also shows the initiative that you’re taking to make sure the work is done right. Ever have a question that you wanted to ask in school but then changed your mind? Those are the perfect opportunities to practice, even if the question can be answered with a yes or no answer. Ask questions just to ask a question! Once you get into the habit of asking questions, it won’t be so difficult when you’re out in the real world
Practice Filling Out Job Applications
A lot of the job applications are transitioning from paper to electronic forms. Practicing filling out both forms will be able to help you familiarize yourself with information that is typically asked. You can go online and print out job applications and just practice at home. You can also try and practice by searching for companies you would like to work for online and just go through the electronic versions.
No one knows you better than yourself. Finding ways to accommodate your needs can be easy in the workforce, if you know what you want. If you know that you cannot be in loud environments for a long period of time make sure to keep that in mind to inform your employer. Usually the company can accommodate you with a few minutes to relax in an office or give you a small break when you feel your stress level is rising. If you have to take medication when you’re on the clock, also keep that in mind to let your employer know that you you’ll need a break every so often to do so. Do you need access to aids such as ladders or mobility scooters? Let your employer know! Knowing exactly what you need will help you transition into the workforce smoothly.
Know Your Rights
This is probably the most important knowledge you can have when getting ready to join the work force. Having a working knowledge on your rights and your employers’ rights will give you more confidence in knowing that you will be treated fairly. You can go to the Office of Employment Disability Policy to find out more information at
Practice Social Etiquette
Please! Yes! And Thank You! Practicing social etiquette will help build confidence in your teen when meeting new people in the work force. Someone held the door for you? Remember to say thank you! When is it appropriate to give a “high-five” instead of a handshake? How close should you stand to a person when you’re talking to them? Do you knock before entering an office or do you walk right in? What to do when you need to speak to someone but they’re on the phone? Having a plan for different scenarios and role-playing them out with a parent or coach can make the work environment less stressful.
Check out www.advancela.org for more information on vocational skills training programs and a conference for parents and professionals focusing on transition.
Contributed by: Yuttigar Jirachachavalwona
Edited by: Rachel Round, Graduate Student and Advance LA Life Skills Coach