Five ways to thrive at your part-time job

I’ve written before that I think every teenager should get a part-time job in high school.  For those who’ve secured part-time employment, here are five ways to get the most out of your experience and actually do a great job.

1. Don’t treat it like a part-time job.
Sure, this job isn’t your life (it is a part-time job, after all), and you may have plans for a future that doesn’t involve folding clothes or making sandwiches.  But it matters a lot to someone there.  If the clothing store doesn’t perform well, your manager could lose his job.  If the deli doesn’t sell enough sandwiches, the owner might not be able to pay her mortgage.  And the other employees at your gig who won't be leaving it at the end of the summer care a lot about keeping their jobs.  You’ll do better work and be a better employee if you treat this part-time job like your future depends on it.  For someone there, it does.

2. Anticipate your boss’s requests.
A good employee will cheerfully take out the garbage when her boss asks.  A great employee picks up on the fact that the garbage needs to be taken out when it’s full and just takes care of it without being asked.  Every day that you go to work, listen to what your boss asks you to do and think about how you could anticipate that request the next time.  Every time you do something your boss would normally have to ask someone to do, you’re showing her that you’re a smart employee who can be trusted.

3. Treat your mistakes seriously.
You’re going to make a few mistakes at your job.  It happens to the best of us.  When it does, take it seriously.  Let your boss know that you realize it matters that the ketchup gets changed out at the end of the day (see tip #1).  Apologize and resolve not to make the mistake again.  When you take a mistake seriously, you can actually prove yourself to be a better employee.  When I was sixteen, I worked for a limousine company.  The one day I accidentally backed one of the cars into another that was parked where our driver shouldn’t have left it, my boss told me later that he didn’t need to yell at me because I obviously felt badly enough already–he didn’t want to make me feel any worse.  He offered to pay for half the repair and take the other half out of my paycheck.  And when he wrote me a letter of recommendation to help me get my first job in college, he mentioned that mistake and how much responsibility I’d shown in fixing it.  Mistakes happen.  But they can actually help you become a better employee when you treat them seriously. 

4. Don’t worry about credit.   
The most respected and valued employees don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they’re getting credit for what they do.  If you clean the windows after closing (without being asked), your boss may not ever know it was you.  Do it anyway.  You’re not going to get credit for every good thing that you do in this job or in this life.  That’s the way it goes.  The most successful people care more about doing good work than they do about getting credit for every good thing they do.  The credit—and its associated rewards—will eventually show up.  But in the meantime, don’t expect, demand or wait for it.

5. Be a happy worker.
Positivity is contagious.  When you’re cheerful and pleasant to be around, people gravitate towards you.  No, you may not leap out of bed every morning excited to get to work, but once you get there, act like there's no place you'd rather be.  Be nice to customers, your co-workers, and your boss.  Smile a lot.  You won’t just make yourself happier; you’ll make everyone around you happier, too.  That’s the kind of impact I write about here, the kind that makes people miss you when you move on to something else.  Work hard, do a good job, and make a point to be a happy worker.  You’ll thrive at this part-time job and improve your chances of getting the next job that you want.