I'm a teenager about to join the workplace and I'm curious what things I should know about - in particular, what things differ between an actual work environment and what's often portrayed in tv/movies/etc.

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    I went ahead and tried to clean the question up a bit to make it more what the site would want. Ian, can you add some information on what sort of job you're starting? Tips for, say, a waiter are going to be quite a bit different than a programmer. – Kevin Nov 12 '20 at 3:40
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    Unfortunately this is an incredibly broad question - there are just too many stereotypes to discuss. Also, there may some "kernel of truth" to what you see on TV, since they would be inspired by stories of actual events and behaviour (although the depiction is usually an exaggeration) - so while most workplaces are pretty boring and normal, you may come across something that could be sitcom material over your career. – HorusKol Nov 12 '20 at 3:42
  • You might be able to ask about specific stereotypes you're concerned over in individual questions. – HorusKol Nov 12 '20 at 3:43
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    Already narrowing it down to a field of work might be helping. One thing I learned though is that stereotypes are stereotypes sure, but they most of the time come from somewhere... – Laurent S. Nov 12 '20 at 8:27
  • To many teenagers there is no "field of work" only what is available and will send a paycheck. Its very uncommon for someone at 16 to have a specialized field. – clbx Nov 13 '20 at 2:18

I'm going to take a stab at this without knowing the precise profession - so it's going to be a bit generic.

First up, the most important thing to understand: your main objective is to make your boss look good and make their job easier. This might sound strange, but think about it this way - your boss has a series of objectives they're supposed to achieve; whether it's increase customer satisfaction, develop 10 new features in the flooby program, or pump up sales by 10%. If your boss could do that all on their own, the company wouldn't have hired you. But those things they're trying to do are too big for one person, which is why the boss has people underneath them to try to help get them all done.

This often is a source of misunderstanding, because "The Boss" is often a, well, 'jerk' in popular media. "I hate my boss" is a common refrain. And the people that aren't outright hostile to their boss are deemed 'suckups'

This probably gets my vote for the most widespread misconception about the workplace. Want to know how to do a good job? Ask the boss. Want to know how you should handle a specific thing? Ask the boss. Unsure about pretty much anything work related? Ask the boss.

Don't get me wrong - there are bad bosses out there. But if you get into the pattern and mindset of delivering results and solving problems for your boss? Then you've got a wide-open career ahead of you. If you're the sort of person that a boss can rely and depend on - then you're the sort of person that gets to pick what sort of boss you get to work with.

The second thing: try to focus as much as you can on Internal Locus Of Control. Basically, focus on the things you can control. Blaming someone else never helps out. Instead, try to focus on what you can do to improve, what you can do to prevent a problem from ever appearing again. If you're a barista and your coffeeshop suddenly doesn't have enough supplies to make mochas - which would your manager rather hear?

  • "It's because Alice always drinks a lot of mochas when she's at the til. We ran out because of her."
  • "If you want, I could start doing inventory at the end of each of my shifts? Maybe we could catch something like this the day before instead of during the day?"

In one, you did nothing to help the problem and caused strife in the workplace; in the other, you took ownership of the problem and proposed a solution (Bosses hate problems; they love solutions.)

But the biggest benefit to this mindset? It means you get better. Blaming someone else is just a crutch and makes it harder to improve (why would you improve, if you did nothing wrong?) Even in the cases where someone else really did mess up... there's usually something you could've done better.

  • These are good advices, i would also suggest that, work isn’t life, and your own personal happiness is not worth being taking advantage of over paper, working extra hours sometimes is ok, if the employer also goes the extra mile for you, if they don’t you don’t. – morbo Nov 15 '20 at 13:56

Very broad question, however I will try to help you by refuting some inaccuracies that are displayed in some specific series or films.

  • Friends when having a full-time job, you won't have the time/energy to hang out every day with your friends in a cafe before work.
  • Emily in Paris you will not be send to Paris and be able to work there as marketing-genius when you don't speak any French.
  • the IT Crowd just asking/saying "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" will not suffice for the majority of problems you encounter as a system administrator.
  • Working Girl just having some brilliant business idea doesn't make you a successful businesswoman/man.
  • Married with Children when you insult the customers in your store, you will be fired immediately.
  • “When you insult the customers in your store, you will be fired immediately” Unless you own the store, or the owner has deliberately created a store brand involving insulting customers in a good-natured fashion, in a similar fashion to how some bars are deliberately dirty as a part of their brand. – nick012000 Nov 13 '20 at 10:37
  • All nice points, excepted the 2nd one... at least when you have an IT problem, you really should try to "turn it off and on" before bothering your coworker / boss / IT support. – Pac0 Nov 17 '20 at 19:00

While it sounds like the TV/Movies has been covered, there's a few things I wish someone had told me (or maybe they did and I just did listen) when I started working at 15. This is going to mostly be anecdotal, but I feel like thats okay for this questions.

I'm going to go off the assumption that you are not working to sustain yourself, just have a little extra pocket cash. You're probably working service jobs or something along those lines (A grocery store, a restaurant, etc.). If you plan on going to college/trade school and will work in a feild that requires some kind of education these points become even more true.

For background, I worked all kinds of Jobs in high school, Fast Food, Resturants, Libraries, etc.

  1. Do not make it your life. While it may not seem like it, school and social life is very important at this point. I neglected both to work, and in hindsight it probably cost me more money than saved me. I have only just reunited with some of my high school friends that have been close for years and I've missed out on the last 5 or 6 years of time with them.

  2. Find something you don't hate. Don't be afraid to quit and find a new job. You're young, no job or job history is going to persist if you go to college or pick up a trade. If you don't like a job, find a new one. Jobs that teenagers typically will pick up have really high turn over. Of course do this in a professional manner.

  3. Try and find something outside of the obvious, if you are planning on college/trade, try to find something relevant to that field, this is probably the most important.

  4. Ask your school for jobs over the summer. School regularly will hire students to do work over the summer. IT and Maintaince work are probably the most common, I did a stint one summer in the library another working IT. These will generally yield you some kind of benefit outside of a paycheck (helping fix leaky sinks in the boys bathroom at school or stringing internet cable is much more beneficial than punching in burgers at Micky D's)

  5. Apply for college internships! Especially if you know of a field that you'll be interested in. Who cares if you're qualified, just say "Hey I'm in high school and really want to lean about xyz".

Basically my TL:DR is: You're in high school and not working to sustain yourself. Do something you enjoy or something that will yield you more than a paycheck. Your minimum wage teenage job money will probably pale in comparison to what you will make later in life, skills or at least enjoying what you do will be much more valuable.


Assuming you're 16 and you got your first job, I wouldn't stress much. Chances are you're going to quit in a couple of months. So it's not really important.

If anything you should take a good look around you. If you're 16, and you're going to work to make money to spend on things while you have a good life at home with your parents, look at how others are living. They're relying on a job that you probably won't be in 5 years.

Remember those people someday.


What should a new-to-the-workforce teenager be aware of before joining the workplace?

Minding their manners. The rest is easy.

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