If you are under 16, you’ll need a work permit before you begin working. You will also need to be enrolled in school or already have your high school diploma or GED. Your school counselor can help you obtain a permit. You must meet the school’s grade point average, attendance, and other requirements. 

To find more information about obtaining a work permit click here. 

Mayor’s Earn & Learn Programs:

The Community Work Experience (CWE) is for youth living in the Metro Milwaukee area between the ages of 14-24. CWE provides youth with a 7-week work experience that will cover the processing of their applications and work permits; a subsidized wage rate of $7.50 per hour for 20 hours each week; and work-readiness skill development and training to make the job successful for both the youth worker and their nonprofit employer.

The Summer Youth Internship Program (SYIP), for youth ages 16-19 years old, is a specialized work opportunity where youth are assigned to various work assignments in departments within city government. SYIP provides a 8-week work experience. Youth receive a subsidized wage rate of $11.52 per hour for 20 hours each week for a maximum of 160 hours during the summer work cycle.

The Private Sector Job Connection (PSJC) provides work opportunities in the private sector for older youth, age 18 or older, who have had previous work experience in EARN & LEARN, or in another work experience.

For high school students interested in the arts:

The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has a Pre-College summer art program for high school students. MIAD’s Pre-College Program is devoted to developing high school students’ artistic skills and prepare them for an art and design college. The DPI scholarship for students who qualify for free or reduced lunches covers the cost of tuition and supplies.

For teens interested in the environment:

The Urban Ecology Center High School Outdoor Leadership program is a unique, two-year paid internship that will helps teens build a wide range of skills including leadership, mentoring, rock climbing, canoeing, scientific research, public speaking, animal care and much more.

If you have been laid off from your job, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits. Click here to find out if you are eligible. 

Jobs are about more than just getting a paycheck: they can also provide you with social networks and mentors. Working a part-time job in high school increases the chances of graduation and can lead to future opportunities. Work experience can also help show that you are responsible  

Whether you are a high school student looking for part-time work or an adult seeking a full-time job, there are lots of resources available to help you develop your skills and search for opportunities. 

The Wisconsin Job Center offers a free service you can use online to search for jobs. Go to Wisconsinjobcenter.orgor call 1-888-258-9966 to begin your search. You can also always use free job search websites such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter.  

Employ Milwaukee, located at 2342 N. 27th Street, features a career resource center as well. There, you can use computers and get help looking for jobs and preparing application and interview materials. Go to the Employ Milwaukeewebsite or call at 414-270-7500. Employ Milwaukee can help you look for part-time, full-time, or seasonal work. 

Earn & Learnis the City’s program to help young people make a successful transition to adulthood by providing opportunities to develop work-readiness skills while they earn wages working in government, community- and faith-based organizations and private sector businesses. 

Another resource is the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee. The YWCA features a Career Opportunity Center and offers services to both youths and adults. The Center is located at 1915 North Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. For hours and contact information, go to their website. 

There are many other resources available to help you in your job search.  

If you are still in high school, your school counselor can provide you with information about finding a job. He or she can help you find job centers close to you. The Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) system also has information about finding a part or full-time job and also lists Milwaukee agencies that assist job seekers. Go to MPL’s online career center or head to your nearest public library and ask if there are job-seeking resources you can use. There are also national programs that can help you gain employment skills and finish your education. Job Corps (pronounced “Job Core”) allows participants to train in one of many exciting fields, including carpentry or computer programming, and assists them in obtaining a high school degree or GED. The program offers free campus living, and participants are also provided with food, books, and sometimes even spending money. You must be at least 16 years old to participate in Job Corps. Go to Job Corps websiteor call the Job Corps office at 1-800-733-5627 for more information. 

If you are between the ages of 18 and 24, you may also be interested in the AmeriCorps program, a national service project that offers paid employment as well as scholarship money for college. Call 1-800-942-2677 or go tothe AmeriCorps website 

More resources: 

Job advice from a former foster youth

How to get a job can be a mystery. We asked Jessica Holden, an HR advisor at Dyson (yes, like the vacuums and hand dryers), to give foster youth advice on finding a job. Jessica’s expertise is in full cycle recruiting and talent acquisition, on-boarding, HR operations, employee relations, employee recognition and off-boarding. Fun fact: Jessica’s first job was through a City of Milwaukee Program which paired inner city youth with organizations. Jessica was paired with a teacher at Rufus King High School for a summer and she tutored other kids to prepare them for a rigorous curriculum. Jessica is a former foster youth with lots of hiring expertise to share.

Where can I look to find a job?

You can always look on website like Indeed or ZipRecruiter. But Jessica recommends asking your network—does your guidance counselor, coach, community service mentor, religious leader, case manager, or agencies that have provided you services know of any openings? The best opportunities might not be paid so be open to volunteer experiences to gain real work experience. You can also look at the library and on government websites since many offices have job readiness programs.

What should I wear to an interview?

Depending on the job and industry, you should aim for business attire or business casual. Jessica says interview clothes don’t have to be expensive and recommends looking at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Goodwill. You only need one trusty interview outfit!

What should I bring to an interview?

  1. You should bring 5 copies of your resume, since interviewers may sometimes bring additional people into the interview who haven’t reviewed your materials. Make sure to carry them in an envelope or folder to keep the paper in good condition.
  2. Bring a notebook and pen, too.
  3. Always have questions for the interviewer! It shows that you’ve taken the time to get to know their organization and are interested. It can be hard to think of questions on the spot, so prepare a few ahead of time.
  4. Make sure you have a great attitude. Even if you realize part way through the interview that it’s not a good fit, or you weren’t that excited to begin with, always put your best foot forward and leave on a good note.

What’s the best way to practice for a job interview?

You can talk out loud to yourself and run through your experience. Learn how to talk about your role, the impact you made, and any major projects you worked on. Learn how to tell a story of your previous work experiences!

Look out for local resources to help you practice too—for example, sometimes local libraries have mock interview sessions. You can also work with someone that you trust to ask you sample questions, practice giving answers, and get real feedback from them.

What do employers look for most when hiring entry level employees?

  1. A hunger! Jessica says employers want someone who wants to soak in as much information as possible, who wants challenges, and who is willing to try new things and take feedback to improve.
  2. Communication skills. Are you able to communicate when you need time off? If you don’t understand how to complete a task, can you ask for help?
  3. Reliability. There will always be temptations to call in sick or not show up, but when you don’t show up, a manager must either personally fill in for you or find someone to fill in at the last minute. Consider how your actions impact everyone else on your team!

I got the job! Now what?

When you are new to the job, you should be in learning mode. Be an active listener and observer. Ask questions about your role. Take the time to learn the workplace culture—it’s okay to start making friends but avoid oversharing.

What should I do if I dislike my job?

Jessica recommends first asking yourself, “What do I have in my control?” Is it that you’re struggling in your role? If so, what tools and resources are available to help you? Are your hours a challenge? Is there a way to make the issue less burdensome? You can work with your manager to express your concerns but be solution-oriented ! Brainstorm and propose solutions.
Jessica also reminds us that a job is not worth your mental health. You can take the time to find a better fit. There’s a difference between a job and a career. It’s okay to move on from roles!

What are characteristics of a good supervisor?

  • Supervisors should be transparent about their expectations and your job performance.
  • Good supervisors can coach in the moment and point out ways to improve anytime.
  • They have an open door policy and are truly approachable.
  • Good supervisors should also be able to adjust their leadership style. Not everyone on their team is going to learn the same way and supervisors should help each team member learn and grow.

What do I do if I have a conflict? How can I get along better with my coworkers?

Once again, you can ask, “What do I have within my control?” Your goal at work is to work. It’s okay not to be friends with every coworker but you should be able to communicate with a level of respect. If you can no longer treat someone with respect or aren’t being treated with respect, it’s okay to move on to the manager or human resources. HR is a great resource to have neutral conversations. Remember, a job is never worth your mental health and is not worth the drama!

Should I share that I was in foster care? How much of my personal life should I share?

Less is more. In an interview, you are not obligated to give any personal information like whether you are married, have children, have health issues, or that you were in foster care. In fact, it is illegal and inappropriate for an interviewer to ask. After you have the job, you can form relationships with your coworkers and make a judgement call. Being is foster care is nothing to be ashamed of but if its not going to impact your role in a positive manner, you can save that personal experience for a more impactful setting. Your experience is highly valuable in a volunteer capacity. For example, is there a local organization you can advise or sit on the board?
Additionally, not every interviewer is trained to interview and they may not be equipped to remain neutral. Protect yourself by focusing on your strengths and work/volunteer experiences!

After foster care, Jessica earned a full ride to Northwestern University and received a B.S. in Education and Social Policy. She then got a Master's degree from the Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago and has since worked in a variety of human resources roles. She was recently appointed as an Associate Board Member of New Moms, a Chicago-area nonprofit that at works to break the cycle of poverty for new mothers ages 13-24 and their children by providing stable housing, job training and case management.