How do I earn money?

This letter writer is dipping a toe into the job market for the first time. 

Our elder gives her a crash course in the basics.


Dear EWC

Good day, I am trying to find myself a job to start earning my own money. My mother always throws in my face that I’m living off of her money. I would like to prove her wrong and earn my own money but, in the process, I would also like to learn and get to make new experiences. But the only problem is I don’t know where to apply.


Willow replies

Hi, I’m Elder Willow, a volunteer with the Elder Wisdom Circle. Good for you for wanting to get a job and earn your own money! That’s a big and important step to take and I applaud you for wanting to learn as you earn. You haven’t included any details about your age, education or interests and since EWC is a US-based organization, I don’t know anything about the job market in South Africa. However, I’ll be glad to share some general thoughts with you. I will have to make some assumptions, so forgive me if I’m wrong. I will assume you are a teen and any job you get will be your first position.

Where to apply depends on many different factors. Do you live in a city where there are many employers, or a more rural location? Do you have reliable transportation to get to a job farther from where you live, or are you limited to jobs within walking distance of your home? Obviously, any job you apply for has to be in a location you can get to consistently. Repeated failure to show up because you can’t get there will only earn you a reputation as an unreliable employee, and that will harm you when you apply for future jobs.

Once you determine the geographic area you can work in, make a list of the businesses in that area that you might apply to. If your area has “help wanted” listings – either printed or online – (such as a newspaper, community bulletin board, or LinkedIn) take a look at entry level positions that are being advertised. Here in the US, stores and fast-food restaurants sometimes also put “Help wanted” signs in their windows.

Do you have any specific job skills that might help? For example, can you type or do you know how to use a computer? Any specific skills like those might help you gain an office-based job. If not, consider working in a restaurant (waitress, cashier, dishwasher, hostess, cleaner) or a retail/convenience/grocery store (salesperson, customer service, stocking shelves). In the US, those types of businesses are often hiring and they employ many young, first-time workers. Even if you don’t see any “help wanted” signs at businesses in your area, go in anyway and ask if they are hiring. If the answer is “not right now”, ask to fill out an application anyway and request a call if something opens up. You never know what could happen, and you just might get a call. Following up periodically with these businesses about the status of your application can also help.

My advice to you is not to focus too much on narrowing your application process to specific businesses. As a first-time employee I would urge you to put in applications anywhere you can even if you aren’t sure, it’s for you. Don’t just put in one or two applications and sit back waiting for a call. That’s unlikely to be successful. The more places you apply, the greater the odds of finding that job. Don’t give up!  And remember that no job is forever. Give whatever job you get your best effort. Learn everything you can and when the time is right, take what you’ve learned and use it to get the next job, and the next. If higher education is in your future, use your experience at these early jobs to help you narrow down the type of career that would suit you in the future.

Any job you get will be a learning experience. The specifics of the job don’t matter that much. Whether you’re serving up fast food, working at a computer or packing groceries, you’ll learn skills that will be useful as you transition into future jobs. You’ll learn the importance of being on time, working with different people (and different personalities), dealing with difficult people, meeting boss’ expectations, managing a paycheck and developing a good work ethic. I’ll share with you that my first job as a teen was working at a lunch counter taking orders and serving food. It taught me to pay attention to detail (to get the orders right!), deal with people, work for multiple bosses, multitask, to be flexible, to work efficiently and a long list of other skills. I spent my professional career as a banker. It doesn’t seem like those two jobs have much in common!  But the general skills learned in that first job were of great use during my banking career.

I hope something in this letter is helpful to you as you seek out that first job. You sound like an impressive, hard-working and responsible young woman, and that’s exactly the type of employee most employers are looking for. Thank you for writing to the EWC and trusting us with your question. I hope you’ll let me know when you find that first job. If I’ve missed anything or you have something to add, feel free to send me a follow-up letter or comment. I’ll gladly respond. Good luck with your job search. I’m rooting for you!

Article #: 500209
Category: Career

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