Working in your teens – what you need to know

Starting work as a teenager can be a little daunting, but the benefit of job experience (and extra spending money) will actually set you up for success in the future, says Barrie Swart, Head of Gumtree Jobs.

“Even if you don’t have a lot of experience, there are plenty of options out there for you. A part-time job can boost your confidence, provide a sense of responsibility and give you some insight into the career path that you might like to take. Do you like working with people? In a team? Do you like organising? Are you a delegator? You won’t really know until you start working.”

Under The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) of South Africa, you can start working at the age of 15-18 provided that the work is appropriate for your age and not deemed detrimental to your schooling or mental health, or places you at risk. For example, you may not serve alcohol or drive a car under the age of 18 nor will you be allowed handle dangerous materials or work in a high-risk environment. The only exception is the Performing Arts, which does not have limitations on age but does require a valid permit from the Department of Labour.

Some of the most popular jobs for teenagers include:

  • Flyer distribution
  • Babysitting
  • Fast food or restaurant work
  • Retail assistant
  • Lifeguard
  • Gardening
  • Housesitting
  • Tutoring
  • Golf caddy

Minimum wage is R20 per hour and you should not accept a job that pays less than that amount. The nature of the job will usually dictate how much you can earn. A dogwalker, for example, can easily earn R60 per hour, whereas a golf caddy might earn R200 to tag along with a group of golfers for the duration of the game (which could be about 4 hours). A tutor can demand R200 an hour, depending on the subject, whereas a housesitter might demand up R250-R500 per day.

“Go on and compare the costs with similar services in your neighbourhood to figure out what you can charge. Make sure that the amount you earn will cover your taxi or Uber fare, telephone costs and other incidentals like lunch money or supplies you may need to purchase to make it worth your while,” says Swart. “Ask your parents for referrals and be extremely careful when dealing with new customers you don’t know. It’s a good idea to get a parent’s help during your job search.”

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find a job right away. “If you need more experience, try volunteering at a NGO in your area. Usually there are a variety of roles you could work in, ranging from cleaning to administration, but anything that you can add to your CV will help you in the long run.”

According to Swart, the most important tip to remember is not to neglect your schooling in favour of your part-time job. “As a high school student, your job is to study and work hard in school. If your part-time job interferes with your exams or schooling, you need to give it up. You will be working your entire adult life, so don’t be in a rush.”

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