First Jobs

TeenWorks’ Summer Program provides first jobs for many under-served teens including paid work-learn opportunities, college and career exploration, professional skills development, and networking. Some teens in our programs will be the first in their family to maintain a job or set foot on a college campus.

Help put teens on a positive path toward a life of purpose and self-sufficiency by donating to TeenWorks!

Everybody remembers their first job. No matter how menial or gritty, first jobs are essential for building a work ethic, self-esteem and self-reliance. They’re a first step toward self-discovery and knowing what we want to achieve in life. Check out some of our partners and supporters, sharing about their first jobs:


Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications, Office of Mayor Joe Hogsett - City of Indianapolis

When I turned 16 and wrapped up competition season for my high school dance team, I knew that I wanted a job. To me, a job was synonymous with independence. It would allow me to have my own money, make my own schedule, and meet new people.

I applied at a dozen places and ultimately found a job at a place called Dakota Watch Company – a mall kiosk that sold and repaired watches. I learned how to size a band and work on a team; how to replace a watch battery and manage my often conflicting obligations. It could be demanding and exhausting (especially during busy season) but I enjoyed the job so much, I continued working there throughout college.

You know how people always talk about how your first job sets you up for success? When people say that, they usually mean the soft skills that come with holding a job. For me, my years at a mall ended up being a different sort of leg-up. My first post-college “big girl” job was doing public relations and communications for an advertising agency. My first client? Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall operator in the United States.

I remember how surprised my interviewers were when I came in and began explaining the unique challenges and opportunities of a mall.



Communications Manager at Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana

I was 16 years old when I got my first job at the local White Castle. Learning how to take orders and make food was the easy part of the job. The most valuable lessons were the soft skills I acquired that continue to serve me in my professional life today.

First is the importance of being punctual and reliable. I really learned the impact of this lesson when other people were late or failed to show up because I picked up a lot of their slack. Those people didn’t keep their jobs for long.

Another lesson was handling conflict. We’ve all heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” Not to be taken literally, this phrase just means it’s imminently better to diffuse a situation than to agitate it more by arguing. You’re unlikely to change someone’s mind, so make them feel whole, and send them on their way.

Earning $6.25 an hour, I learned the value of money, and since I spent the better part of my days marinating in the scent of pickles and onions, I also learned the value of a good laundry detergent and body cleanser.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this job was the opportunity to work with other kids my age, including my best friend. Some of the people I met at that job, I remain friends with today. I even ran into my store manager many years later, at my ceremony when I graduated from college. And I still see one of the shift managers who works at the White Castle in the town where I currently live, 22 years later.



Sun King Community Development Director

Sun King Community Development Director Ben Shine talks about his first job and how clamato, of all things, plays a part in the story……Watch here:


Indianapolis Mayor

What was your first job?

My first job was working as a lifeguard in my hometown at the Rushville City Pool. It was a great way for me to spend my summer, and allowed me to save up for the school year.

What were the valuable lessons and skills you learned?

For me, lifeguarding was much more than suntans and blowing whistles. It was looking out for others, showing up on time to relieve the guard ahead of me, learning how to save and earn money. These are lessons I have carried throughout my career, in each job that I have held since.

What advice would you give to young people just entering the workforce?

Take each job you have seriously and treat everyone with respect. In all jobs, there are opportunities for growth, to gain skills, and meet new people who can help you as you continue building your career. 



Founder & CEO, NAYR Foundation dba Indianapolis ACE Academy

Ryan, what was your first job?
My first job I ever had was working at Old Navy – Clothing Company. I worked there for 3 ½ years where I started at the bottom of the chart and worked my way up to front line manager.
What were the valuable lessons or tidbits you learned, or that you may have carried with you throughout your career? 
On time is late and late is really late! Being early is 10 mins early.
Did you have a mentor and if yes, how was that person helpful to you?
Yes, my father – he was very supportive and provided developmental support, education and knowledge to be in the workforce. He helped me understand morals and beliefs, work life balance, and the tools needed for success for the future. He developed these ideals through my childhood.
What advice would you give to young people just entering the workforce? 
Entering the workforce as a teen can be life changing. I remember at 16 when I started working at Old Navy. I acquired many valuable lessons I use in my current profession, as a commercial airline pilot. As a teen I always took customer service, leadership skills, and time management for granted, however, I soon realized it was those experiences that created my work ethic today.
Leadership, teamwork, and time management are all related. In order to be a good leader, you must be able to work with a team and understand the concept of time and deadlines. In any industry, I learned being on time was different than I expected. Being on time meant being early and being late meant I would have been on time. This is especially useful in the airline industry from a passenger’s perspective.
When I was younger, I was always intrigued with getting advice from those who were experienced. Therefore, my advice to all the young people entering the workforce is understanding constructive criticism and never lose sight of the goals and dreams you have set for yourself.
I knew at a young age I wanted to be a pilot, but also realized in order to get there I was going to have to work my way up in the workforce. With a lot of perseverance, I was able to pay for schooling by working at the job that I started at in high school!


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2 months ago
RTV6 (WRTV - Indianapolis)

Check out this article by RTV6 (WRTV - Indianapolis) featuring our team at People for Urban Progress!

Our team at PUP helped process over 3,000 Amtrak train seats and cut down over 700 yards of ... See more

It’s never too early to jump headfirst into the workforce, and TeenWorks, a local non-profit, is making work-based learning a reality and helping young people explore career pathways and learn ... See more

3 months ago

Our summer program gives teens the chance to learn new skills, build their networks, and start planning for the future. Donate $10 today at And read TeenWorks supporter ... See more

3 months ago
Photos from TeenWorks's post

Fast food is a popular first job. Check out TeenWorks supporter Jenny Kakasuleff's story at And donate $10 today to support TeenWorks teens in their first work-learn ... See more

3 months ago

Not only do our summer and year-round programs provide teens with chances to learn and grow, but they're also FUN!

If you'd like to support our kiddos and these programs, follow the link: ... See more

3 months ago

Thanks for showing us so much love and support Minnetrista!

Minnetrista partners with TeenWorks every summer, we currently have TeenWorks here at Minnetrista until July. These remarkable, young adults learn about the workforce and get real-work experience. ... See more

3 months ago
Sun King's Ben Shine talks about his very first job

Sun King Community Development Director Ben Shine talks about his first job and how "clamato," of all things, plays an amusing part in the story! Watch his video here, and donate $10 to TeenWorks to ... See more

3 months ago

Check out some of the Amazing teens from TeenWorks at Muncie Community Schools!

Want to support these awesome kids????? Click the link below and give to our first jobs fundraiser ... See more

4 months ago
The Star Press

Check out our new President & CEO, Nick Duvall, featured in this great article! #TWSummer2019

“It’s a good way to spend your summer, not only making a few extra dollars, but also learning new lessons."

4 months ago
Photos from TeenWorks's post

It was a great morning at UIndy as we welcomed 150 teens and their worksite supervisors at the Summer Program launch #TWSummer2019 #TeamIndy

4 months ago
Timeline Photos

Remember your first job? How it helped build character and self-esteem?

Leave a comment below with your first job and donate $10 to give Indiana teens this same opportunity! ... See more

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