Due to the changes young people experience in adolescence, many of the work needs, motivations, and expectations of a 15-year old are likely to be very different to a 24-year old. For young people to succeed in the world of work, they need access to a spectrum of first jobs that provide meaningful employment regardless of where they are at on their developmental pathway. They also need access to a range of supports to cultivate their desire to work and help them to mentally prepare for entering the labour market, which considers and responds to the changes they are experiencing during this time.

In each type of first job below, there is a preference for employability skills, expectations for support, increasingly an expectation of values alignment, opportunities for workplace skill-building and opportunities for social and cognitive skill building, but there are also key differences. For each stage there are also key barriers, which can prevent a young person who is motivated to gain employment from turning that motivation into an outcome.

First jobs for high school aged young people

These first jobs are not usually “career jobs” but considered “pocket money” jobs for young people who are usually still at school, supported in a family environment and balancing peer relationships and interactions.

These jobs may be short-term “holiday” jobs or afterhours/casual employment. Whilst these jobs may have career pathways, the intent of the young person, at this stage, is not usually career oriented.

Young people are approaching these jobs as their first branch toward financial independence from family.

Employer expectations match young person expectations at commencement of employment – though they may have consideration for skill and career development depending on young person’s developing interest.

First jobs for young adults

These are young people who have left school and are looking at employment as a fulltime activity. This may take the form of a traineeship or apprenticeship or entry level position. Motivation is more likely to be financial independence (although it is likely that independence and entry level wages may not be complementary objectives).

Expectations of employers is a critical factor at this level – whilst developmentally young people may not be far beyond the first group – expectations of employers may be significantly different from the employers in the first group. There is possibility of a high incidence of young people and employer expectations around “supports required” and matched to “developmental functioning” being out of alignment here.

First jobs for graduates

These young adults are typically late teen to early 20’s and assumed to have higher developmental functioning. Their focus is more likely to be career oriented and focussed on their area of interest or study. Peers have more influence than family at this point.

Expectations of employers are often that the young person’s developmental functioning matches their hard skill functioning.


Employers need to understand how to engage with young people at these different stages. Without that engagement it is difficult for employers to recognise and consider the different developmental needs and social position of the young person and how that influences their support requirements, expectations and motivations.

The My First Job 2.0 Recommendations have been developed to address this spectrum of first jobs with some recommendations benefiting all young people and others more targeted at young people at a specific stage in their journey. Collectively, it is expected that implementing the proposed recommendations will have a net benefit for the broader Australian community as well.

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