First Job

by Gary Foreman


Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I am a 13 year old girl looking for some easy ways to make money. I read your ideas, but I am looking for more than bake sales or babysitting. I already do them but it isn't enough money. Most people in my neighborhood already have babysitters and believe me I have wasted lots of paper on flyers. Maybe you could give me some places that need assistance spreading business and are willing to pay me for it. I know that money isn't what it's all about, but I like to have money of my own. When I baby-sit and make $15 I spend it on something stupid. But if I made larger amounts I would save up for something big like a car.
Gabriella K.

Gabriella is making one of the first big moves to adulthood. Learning how to make and manage money. Unfortunately, it's not possible to tell her exactly where it's 'easy' to make money. That's because the best job for each person is different. She'll actually do a better job of finding her perfect job than anyone else could do for her.

Where should she start? It appears that Gabriella has already tried the obvious. And that's good. But now she needs to go to the next level. One way is to figure out what she likes and does well. Forget about jobs for a moment. Just list the things that she likes to do. Is she into pets, drawing, exercise? What her favorite activity when the homework is done?

Then, think about people who don't have that particular skill or knowledge but need it. What do they do? Do they try to buy it? And does that create any opportunities for Gabriella?

If she likes pets, a dog walking or pet grooming service could work. Into drawing? She might learn to do graphics for store windows. Good at school? Perhaps she could tutor younger students.

Gabriella mentions helping businesses "spread the word". How can she find businesses that are willing to let her try? Look for businesses that have a good quality product but aren't too busy. If she can find one that would like to reach the teen market that would be a plus. She's too young to approach large stores, but a local business owner might be interested. If a friend's family owns a business that could be an ideal place to start.

Generally, once she's identified who her potential boss or customer is, she'll need to figure out where to find them. Passing out fliers in your neighborhood looking for babysitting jobs is a good example. Go where the customers are.

In Gabriella's case she will select a particular business as her customer. She'll need to think about the business. What would create new customers for them? Take that thought and put together a proposal for the owner.

It might be something simple. She could write a letter as if she were a dog living in a pet store who wanted a new home. Use the letter as a flyer for the store. Bet the response would be better than the typical 'come visit us' flyer.

Gabriella shouldn't be surprised if every owner isn't impressed with her work. But, just like the rest of us, she needs to learn that most work involves some discouragement. And, people who love their work find it's worthwhile to overcome the disappointments.

This is also a perfect time to see if she can make money doing something she loves. In some cases that's not possible. But it's better to find out now when the consequences of failure are small.

She'll also find that part-time teen jobs are a great way to 'try out' different professions. For instance, clerking at a store is an opportunity to see whether Gabriella likes sales.

Suppose she can't find anyone willing to hire her to create business for them. She might find someone willing to let her do a promotion for free. She won't make any money but she will have an opportunity to prove that her ideas work. And, if they do, the owner is likely to change his mind and hire her. Even if the promotion doesn't work, she will have learned from the experience.

She will also need to make sure that her parents are comfortable with her plans. They'll be able to help her decide whether a particular job is appropriate. It's up to them to make sure that she's not working in a dangerous environment.

Gabriella already seems to understand that she needs to look for a job. It's unlikely that a good job will find her unless she puts herself in a position to be found. And often that means working in the industry even if it's in a menial job.

Gabriella is young. Her biggest assets are time and enthusiasm. Fortunately, that can work to her advantage. If she can't find a paying job, she can volunteer her services to a non-profit organization. Often she'll be working side by side with professionals in the field. You'd be surprised how often that leads to a paying job.

Based on her email, Gabriella appears to be a young lady who's willing to strive for success. She's too young for some jobs and that could cause some disappointment. But she's also way ahead of many of her friends who won't start thinking about a job until they reach 15 or 16. We hope she gets off to a great start!


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.


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