Lesson 4

Making Money: The World of Work


Lesson Overview:

Lesson 4 covers: 1) working/employment; 2) job applications; 3) interviews; and 4) the impact of today's choices on future employment. 


Lesson Objectives:

The students will:

  • Name methods of selecting employment.
  • Practice completing a job application.
  • Create a résumé.
  • Compose reference and thank-you letters.
  • Conduct a mock interview.
  • Describe practices that are advantageous to job applicants.
  • Tell how decisions made in middle and high school can impact the future.
  • Know habits, attitudes and personal skills that mark a good employee.


Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

National Standards



  • Deduction - percentage or sum subtracted from pay for taxes, benefits, etc.
  • Employment - work done to earn money. 
  • FICA - Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
  • Internship - a part- or full-time, often unpaid, position that provides education and experience in an area of employment.
  • Reference - one who vouches for another's character, abilities, etc.
  • Résumé - a short summary of work and educational skills and experiences.
  • Salary - a fixed amount paid regularly to a worker.
  • Wages - an amount paid to a worker according to hours worked or jobs done.



To reinforce Lesson 3, review these points:

  • People manage risk by avoiding, reducing, transferring or retaining it.
  • Obtaining insurance is a common way to transfer risk.
  • Insurance needs can change with life's circumstances.
  • Without insurance, a devastating loss could cause financial hardship.
  • If a person dies without a will, his or her estate will be divided according to state law.

Part 1: Work - The Choices

One hundred years ago, child labor was a reality. Children, many younger than those in your group, worked 60-70 hours a week in dangerous jobs on city streets and in coal mines, farm fields, canneries and other businesses. Many had no time to attend school and were paid very little. Due to working conditions, many child laborers were in poor health and at high risk of suffering a disabling injury.

Child labor laws passed in the early 1900s were later struck down by the Supreme Court. It wasn't until the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that the atrocities of child labor were finally put to an end. (The Smithsonian's "In the Playtime of Others: Child Labor in the Early 20th Century" offers a revealing look at child labor in America.)

Today, child labor laws* protect all workers under the age of 18 from hazardous jobs. Those under 14 years of age may work in agricultural settings under certain conditions. When school is in session, youths 14 and 15 years old employed in other types of jobs may work:

  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 3 hours a day maximum.
  • 18 hours a week maximum.

When school is not in session, they may work:

  • Between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (June 1 through Labor Day only)
  • 8 hours a day maximum.
  • 40 hours a week maximum.

* Child labor laws vary from state to state. Consult your state's Department of Labor for more information. 


  • Why were laws passed restricting working hours for 14- and 15-year-olds? Possible answers include:
    • Employers, family members or other individuals might pressure young teens to work too many hours, which might interfere with their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, etc.
    • Ambitious young employees could jeopardize their own health or studies by working too many hours in order to earn more spending money.
Special note: A teen who is unable to find employment, too young to work a traditional job, or is interested in going into business for him or herself might consider becoming an entrepreneur. You may want to supplement this lesson with concepts and activities from Level 2, Lesson 3, "Earning What I Want," which spotlights entrepreneurship.
Employment usually involves a period of training. Some types of jobs require special education and years of preparation. Though job earnings fulfill financial needs, many jobs also provide satisfaction because they build on an individual's strengths and interests.
One type of employment may lead to another. For example, a fast-food worker or restaurant server may in time enroll in management training and open his or her own restaurant. A babysitter or day care provider may eventually attend college and become an elementary teacher.
  • What jobs do your family members have?
  • What type of training or formal education did they receive?
  • What type of job do you plan to have in the future?
  • What training will you need?

Finding the Right Employment

Before applying for any job, an applicant should consider its "fit" in terms of school and family schedules, job requirements, etc. A person can also select a suitable job by:

Personal interests. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' youth website, "What Do You Like?" features a very complete list of jobs according to personal interests, like computers, building and fixing things, helping people, and music and arts. Individual Web pages describe each job and its educational requirements, average pay, number of available positions and the projected future need. A teacher's guide is also available. Additional information may be found in the BLS' Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is updated annually.

Personality type. According to psychologist John L. Holland, there are six personality types. Matching these personality types to particular types of jobs leads to increased satisfaction and success, in Holland's opinion.

  • Realistic - tools, animals or machines.
  • Investigative - math and science.
  • Artistic - creative.
  • Social - helping people.
  • Enterprising - leading people and selling.
  • Conventional - organizing facts and figures.

Intelligences. Education professor Dr. Howard Gardner proposed eight types intelligence or strengths, which "fit" with various types of jobs:

  • Linguistic - word and language-oriented.
  • Logical - math, how things work.
  • Spatial - artistic.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic - physical.
  • Musical.
  • Interpersonal - socially related.
  • Intrapersonal - independent and reflective.
  • Naturalist - outdoor-oriented.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This groups personalities according to:

  • Extraverts (outwardly focused) vs. Introverts (inwardly focused).
  • Sensors (practical, realistic) vs. Intuitives (imaginative, creative).
  • Thinkers (logical, rational) vs. Feelers (sensitive, value harmony).
  • Judgers (serious, orderly) vs. Perceivers (playful, unstructured).



1. After discussing the above information, have students form groups according to types. Invite each group to brainstorm a list of employment possibilities. When the groups have completed the task, as a spokesperson from each to share the findings with the larger group.

2. Have students research jobs of interest using the latest online version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. (Try to ensure each student picks a different type of employment.) When their research is complete, provide time for presentations to the group. Encourage them to expand on the research by inviting a member of the profession to address the group, showing an Internet media clip about the job, etc.


Part 2: Work - The Basics

It's said that finding a job is in itself a job! Diligence and some preparation work are necessary. Those who prepare well show forethought and organizational skills, two qualities a future employee should have.

Make copies of a sample job application from a template website. Discuss various sections of the application before students complete it, using the following information as a guide.

Social Security number

Most, if not all, of the students in your group have a Social Security number by now. If not, they'll need to obtain one before applying for any traditional job, since the number is needed to report payroll information.

It's important for them to memorize this nine-digit number as soon as possible for two reasons: 1) they'll have to provide it often in the future; and 2) due to the threat of identity theft, it's wise not to carry a Social Security card or even have the number written down in a wallet or purse.

Desired Salary

"Open" or "Negotiable" is the best answer. If the figure is too high, an application could be disqualified; if it's too low, the employer could pay less than the applicant planned.​

Previous Employment
Teens with no work experience can instead list jobs like babysitting, mowing lawns or regular volunteering positions. Under "Responsibilities," a job applicant should emphasize skills and activities that could apply to the new job. For example, an applicant for a fast-food job that has babysitting experience could list responsibilities such as cooking, housekeeping or laundry.
A reference is someone who knows a job applicant and can state he or she would be a good employee. The reference speaks to the applicant's work habits, job suitability, honesty, customer service habits, etc.
A person with no traditional work experience may instead provide one or more personal or character references. A character reference might be an adult family friend or neighbor, but better, stronger, references would be the head of a volunteer organization, a faculty advisor for a school club, a sports team coach, a lawn mowing customer or a church pastor.
Your students may not be considering traditional employment at this time, but in the future they'll need to list references and ask for letters of recommendation when applying for college, awards, scholarships, internships, etc. In anticipation of gathering references, they should strive to do their best always and make positive connections with adults at school, in extracurricular and volunteer activities, and other settings.



An individual must always ask permission before naming a reference on a job application. If this person isn't seen regularly, it may be easiest to write a letter. In addition to requesting the reference, the letter should include:

  • An update of what the applicant has been doing recently.
  • A little information about the position, scholarship, award, etc., the person is seeking, including how it will benefit him or her in the future.
  • A statement of appreciation for the reference's support and willingness to be a reference.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. A thank-you letter or note to a reference or an interviewer is always in order, whether or not the reference was contacted by the business or the applcant received the job offer, award, etc. References appreciate this extra effort and may be more willing to provide future recommendations. If the relationship is more casual, a personal thank-you note is also acceptable.


Activity: Letterwriting

In the age of email, writing letters is nearly a lost art form. Take this opportunity to provide practice to the students. Invite them to write:

  • A letter asking if someone would serve as a reference or write a letter of recommendation.
  • A thank-you letter or note to someone who's provided a reference or written a letter of recommendation.

Many websites have reference letter and formal thank-you letter templates. Search using the keywords "Reference Letter." Download and save the template(s) to the computer desktop. Have students "Save As" using their own name as the file name.



As a job applicant gains work experience, he or she may be asked to provide a résumé. A résumé is a simple, easy-to-read, up-to-date summary of work and educational skills and experiences, ideally on one page. Even if a job ad doesn't mention providing a résumé, it makes a positive impression and could work in the applicant's favor.

If desired, have students practice creating a résumé, using a résumé template found online.

Résumés, like job applications, should be reviewed carefully for typos, misspelled words, accuracy, proper format, etc. It's said employers spend only about 20 seconds taking a first look at a résumé, so first impressions are very important.

Remind the students Lesson 2 stressed the value of being organized. Keeping accurate records of employers, dates of employment, schools and dates attended, addresses, and other information is very helpful as a person compiles a résumé or contacts references.


Activity: Online Job Application
In the future, your students will likely complete many job applications online. If you have access to the Internet, have them practice completing an online application:
1. Download a template of an online application form from a reliable website and save it to your computer's desktop.
2. Before each student completes the application, have them "Save As" using their own name as the file name.
3. Have them print a copy of the application after completing it. (Or invite them to send it to your school email address.)
4. Review each application, looking for spelling errors, inconsistencies, blank areas, etc.
5. Return the reviewed applications to the students so they can improve.
Make copies of the reproducible. Review and discuss each of the points.
Your students may not be considering employment at this time, but they will face interviews in the future when applying for college, scholarships, special programs, internships, etc. An interview is a meeting between a representative of a business, school or organization and an individual seeking a job, award, scholarship, etc. The interviewer asks various questions and presents relevant information to the individual; he or she answers the interviewer's questions, providing background information and other facts, and in turn may ask some questions of the interviewer as well.


Interview Tips

Make copies of the reproducible. Read and discuss the suggestions. Then invite students to come up with additional tips and questions of their own.


Activity: Mock Interviews

Reproducible: Interview Checklist

Pair up students. Make copies of the reproducible and distribute to each student. Have them conduct mock interviews with each other. Emphasize the positive nature of this activity: providing helpful practice and feedback so students may interview successfully in the future. Its purpose is not to criticize another's words and actions.

If you have access to the Internet, employment websites feature helpful interviewing tools.



Employees may be financially compensated by wages or a salary. Because wages refers to payment by the hour or per job, pay may differ from week to week, according to the number of hours or jobs worked. In contrast, a salary is a fixed amount of money that is regularly paid to an employee.

Whether a worker is paid wages or a salary, his or her paycheck will reflect deductions, money subtracted for various reasons. These deductions include federal, state and sometimes local taxes, as well as FICA (the Federal Insurance Contributions Act). FICA taxes are collected for the:

  • Social Security social insurance program, which provides income to retired and disabled workers and their families.
  • Medicare health insurance program, which helps older people and those with certain disabilities or diseases afford basic medical services.

Part 3: Work - The Future

Your students may currently view adulthood as a dim, distant future destination. Nevertheless, the decisions they make now will pave the way. This section discusses options they have now or will soon have. Each experience can be a stepping stone toward a bright, productive future. The degree to which this is true hinges on planning.


The Impact of First Jobs

Future financial success will probably hinge on a job choice.

Question: What do the following occupations have in common?

​Pear picker Peanut cleaner
Hay baler ​Boxcar loader
​Root beer mug washer ​Furnace cleaner
​Hotel housekeeper ​Jackhammer operator


Answer: All were first jobs held by some of today's most successful business leaders!

Right now, middle school students can: 
  • See the value of first jobs, not solely as extra income, but as opportunities in:

- Networking.

- Work experience.

- Learning.

- Leadership.

The business leaders mentioned learned important lessons from their first jobs. These lessons, which influenced their success, included:

  • To improve business, discover what pleases customers, then do those things.
  • Relating to customers teaches individuals how to positively handle difficulties and obstacles.
  • If you don't like your minimum-wage job, be sure to stay in school.


The Impact of Middle (Junior) and High School

Grades matter, plain and simple. Every year of middle and high school counts. Middle school grades indicate appropriate high school classes to high school administrators, and colleges look closely at every year of an applicant's high school transcript, the record of classes taken and grades received.

Colleges also look for signs that a student has pushed him or herself academically. Those who enroll in serious, advanced (AP or honor) classes and take classes for letter grades (instead of pass/fail) may receive greater consideration.

Right now, middle school students can:

  • Explore their high school website.

- What classes are of interest to them? How can they best prepare for them now?

- What extracurricular activities - sports, clubs or organizations - will they join?

  • Adjust their attitudes about "boring" classes.

- Focus on aspects of classes that are interesting and create a focus of their own. For example, a sports-minded student enrolled in World History can use the opportunity to learn about sports in other countries, the history of the Olympics or the origins of a sport of interest.

- Make subjects come alive. For example, students might enjoy taking a 360-degree tour of a location they're studying, online.

- Make friends with teachers. Each one can be a wonderful resource in the future. 

​ ​

The Impact of College

In general, individuals who graduate from college earn higher incomes than those with only a high school diploma. In several years, most of your students will begin choosing a college, based on their future career goals and current interests.

Right now, middle school students can:

  • Check out college websites. What majors appeal to them? What classes do the schools offer? What's life like on campus?
  • Explore sources of financial assistance. If money will definitely be an issues, websites like Fastweb can be helpful in locating scholarships and grants. Some of the available money is awarded to high school students. (Note: registration is required.)
  • Keep in mind what colleges are looking for:
    • Leadership qualities.
    • Involvement in activities like sports, community service and learning opportunities.
    • Concentration and growth in one or two areas of interest.
    • "Special" qualities like unique travel experiences, overcoming obstacles and entrepreneurship.


The Impact of Volunteering

Volunteering confirms abilities in areas of interest and can lead to paid positions. For example, a teen who volunteers at the local humane society may be inspired to plan a career in veterinary medicine.

Many organizations, including Modern Woodmen adult chapters and youth service clubs, provide volunteering opportunities. Members construct wheelchair ramps and benches, make and serve food, help care for animals and plant gardens, applying their skills as they serve others.

Right now, middle school students can:

  • Identify a particular area of interest in which to volunteer.
  • Find posted volunteer opportunities online or in local publications. VolunteerMatch​ is a good resource. Another option is to contact organizations directly to see if they need help.
  • Decide how they can best help. Volunteers often perform routine tasks like stuffing envelopes, but over time may negotiate with volunteer coordinators to serve in a way that's a better fit for them.
  • Volunteer in ways that provide personal growth, advanced learning and leadership opportunities.


The Impact of Job Shadowing and Internships

When a student job shadows, he or she gets an inside look at a job and its responsibilities by spending a day with an adult who does this type of work. Internships are long-term, full- or part-time programs that also provide students experience in a particular occupation.

Students receive no pay for job shadowing and often none for internships, but do receive a valuable learning experience. They also may build relationships with adults who can help or mentor them in the future. Guidance counselors or teachers can steer students toward appropriate opportunities and make connections for them.

Right now, middle school students can:

  • Take advantage of national job shadowing programs during the school year.
  • Use down time in the summer to job shadow. Students can make the most of the opportunities by:

- Researching the company and the particular job beforehand and writing down questions.

- Bringing along a notebook to take notes.

- Practicing professional behavior and wearing appropriate business clothing.

- Writing thank-you notes in appreciation for the time and effort expended by the individual.


The Impact of Camps

Generations of children have attended traditional outdoor camps. Today, thousands of day and resident learning camps offer focused learning opportunities that may help identify areas of interest and ability.

Camps also look for teens who can assist younger campers as counselors-in-training. While these are not usually paid positions, they grow individuals because of their teaching and leadership opportunities. They may also in time lead to paid jobs.

Right now, middle school students can:

  • Explore opportunities by going to resources such as camping-related websites.
  •   ​
No matter the job, career or opportunities, employers, teachers and parents say what really determines a student's future success is having a:
  • Strong work ethic. This includes being on time, completing tasks to the best of one's ability, practicing honesty and being trustworthy, and being willing to admit and learn from mistakes.
  • Good attitude. Extending courtesy, respect and kindness to everyone improves situations over time and wins the friendship and support of both peers and adults.
  • Desire to learn and being teachable, making the best of every situation and learning as much as possible.

How will your students measure up in the working world? Make copies of the reproducible. They'll gain insight as they complete this worksheet independently. You may wish to invite the school guidance counselor to speak to your group.