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									Life Skills
By Alison Benedict at
May be reposted only if the by-line is included.

What do I do when it’s time to grow up and move out?

It can feel pretty scary and overwhelming to think about leaving the comfort of your
home and moving on. For some, the transition begins with college. Others may have an
unstable or unsafe home environment and need to leave.

If you are thinking about running away, think about what you are running to. Is your
home unsafe? Are you being abused? Call for help. Every Province and State has help for
teens. There are help-lines. The last thing you want to do is jump out of the frying pan
and land in the fire. The most important thing is to be safe. Your home might just not be
as bad as you think it is. Stay until you have something to move towards.

Teen Resources

Aboriginal Resources
Friendship Centres Across Canada

For Runaways
Montreal, Quebec
Calgary, Alberta
Vancouver, British Columbia
Ottawa, Ontario

The first step in moving on is getting a job. You need a source of income in order to pay
for food, transportation and living expenses. When you look in the classifieds or at the
wages at gas stations and fast food places, notice how much the hourly pay is. Most offer
minimum wage.

In Canada, here is a link to minimum wage rates and increases.

In the US, here is the link.

The amount that you make is not the amount that you will take home. The amount that
you take home is less. You can figure that about 1/3 will go to income taxes and benefits.
Hourly wages may or may not include lunch hour depending on who you work for. Some
jobs have a 35 hour work week, others have a 40 hour work week.

Hours X Wage = gross pay – taxes = take home
For example:
35 hours X $8.00 = $280 gross pay – taxes (1/3) 92.40 = 187.60 take home pay. This
amount times 4 equals the monthly amount that you have to pay for all of the costs of

While you are noticing jobs and hourly pay rates in the classifieds, you may also want to
look at housing costs. How much is a room, bachelor apartment, 1 Bdrm or 2 Bdrm?
How far is it to where you will potentially work? Can you walk or ride a bike? Is there
bussing? How much will it cost for a bus pass? Will I be able to afford a car, the costs of
owning a car, license, insurance, gas and routine maintenance?

As you find all this stuff out, you may decide that you are going to need to make more
money to be able to afford the things you want. You are also going to want to make sure
that you are doing a job that you love or will help you get to your dream job.

Imagine that you are waking up to the sound of your alarm clock. You are excited to start
the new day and get ready for work. You get dressed for work. What kinds of clothes are
you putting on? What do they look and feel like? Be as specific as possible. You get out
the door and what happens next? Do you get on a bike, walk, catch a bus or drive to
work? What does this look and feel like? Now, imagine that you have arrived at work.
What are you doing?
As you imagine your ideal workday, think about the roadmap for getting there. What do
you need to do in order to make it a reality? Do you need to finish high school or go on to
college? How much education do you need? Are you good in the subjects that this job
requires? For example, doctors need to be good at math and science, graphic designers
need to be good at art. Are you interested in a trade? Did you imagine putting on work
boots or driving a bulldozer? Still can’t figure out what you want to do? Check out this
site for help with career planning.

There are jobs that you can work your way up or offer to pay for college. You may
decide that you will need to work and attend college at the same time. Some nurses aids
positions encourage employees to get nursing degrees and help pay for college. There is
student loan assistance for people that want to enter the teaching profession and some
health fields. There are also shortages in many fields. Trucking and Ironwork are a couple
of trades that offer training. Check out union websites for information on trades. Another
excellent resource is the Job Corps. It is a program funded by the US government
available to American citizens. They offer free education, training, room and board. All
they expect is a commitment to the program and a drug/violence free lifestyle. Here is the
link to the website: In Canada, there are opportunities for youth
through the military.

Applying for a job

Filling out a job application. Make sure that you fill out as much information as possible.
You may want to take two. Use the first one for practice. Write everything in pencil. Ask
3 people to be references. They usually cannot be friends or relatives. Did you excel in
one of your classes? Ask that teacher to be a reference. Did you play sports? Ask your
coach. Did you participate in any volunteer or extra curricular activities? Ask your
supervisor or program coordinator. Make sure that the people you ask know you. If you
were in a class of 40 students and you never said or word or didn’t do exceptional work,
the teacher may have a hard time remembering you. If you were constantly late,
disrespectful, disruptive or turned in poor work, the teacher will remember you, but may
not give you a good reference. You want to make sure that the people who are your
references will want to say good things about you.

Some employers require a resume. You’re probably thinking, but I don’t have any work
experience, what do I have to say. Focus on the positive. Believe it or not, you do know a
bunch of things that you are probably taking for granted. A functional resume would be
your best bet. Things you would put in your functional resume are: computer programs
you know such as MS; typing skills; internet; any organizing or administrative skills;
marketing skills (did you plaster signs for a fundraiser or advertise an event?);
communication skills (do you love public speaking or giving presentations?); special
skills (did you volunteer at your school newspaper or radio station, have you made any
videos or webpages?) Things to avoid on your webpages are embarrassing or
inappropriate behaviours. People have lost jobs or not been hired when an employer has
come across MySpace or YouTube pages showing bad behaviour. Potential employers
are interested in what you have to offer. If your friends see you as an organizing guru,
your potential employer wants to know that.

Here is a link for career help from the Toronto Public Library. There is a section for free
resume generators.

The Interview

Dress nice and conservative. Here is a link to help you understand how to dress for work. You want your potential employer
to notice you, not your clothes. Be clean. No heavy perfumes or cologne. Some
employers do not allow anything other than ears to be pierced. They expect jewelry to be
kept to a minimum. Until you know this employers dress code, play it cool. Once hired,
you will be given a copy of the employee handbook and it will tell you what you can and
can’t wear.

Here is an example of four different looks from most casual to most professional. The
same black pants and shoes form the foundation. The pants are stain and wrinkle resistant
and cost about $40. The black shoes were on sale for $25. Make sure that you get
comfortable shoes, especially if you will be on your feet all day long. The polo shirt was
$20. The blue striped shirt was $35. You can get three looks with this shirt depending on
what you put it with. A tie makes it more formal and a t-shirt makes it more casual. A suit
jacket would dress it up even more. Flat front pants are more contemporary and
professional looking.
This is an example of a women’s business casual outfit. A jacket would dress it up more.
The “What Not To Wear” website has more information on appropriate clothes for

No matter what clothes you buy, check the labels. Make sure that they are washable. Dry
cleaning can be very expensive when you are first starting out. (Thanks to the ladies at JC
Penney’s for helping with the clothes!)

Use proper grammar and don’t swear. You want to appear trustworthy and professional.
Imagine that you are an employer trying to find someone to trust with your business.
Who would you hire? Poor employees cost the company money. The employer doesn’t
want to take a chance on someone who can potentially hurt the company.

You’re Hired!!!

You just got the call that you can start your new job. Congratulations. The employer will
tell you what time and day you are starting and will ask you to bring certain documents.
Usually, you have to bring your SIN or SSN card and driver’s license or photo ID. Some
businesses require you to take a drug test before you can report to work. They will give
you the details as to where and when. You will have to fill out tax forms and insurance
forms. Some companies offer RRSP’s. Unless you already have health and dental
insurance, make sure that you sign up for it. You can ask the Human Resources personnel
about what it covers and co-pays. You may also ask HR about the RRSP’s or a person
you trust about whether or not you should enlist in the company program or sign up for
one on your own. Each of these will have an impact on your take home pay. They cost
money to enroll.

Make sure that you go to work on time. You should ideally arrive 5-10 minutes early just
to get situated. As you adjust to working, you will learn about your company’s culture.
Some companies have strict rules about time, while others are more flexible. Each
company has its own way of doing things. Pay attention, watch and learn.
Your First Paycheck

You are so excited. You got your first paycheck. Get 2 pieces of ID and head to the bank.
Which one? Since you are just starting out, you need to be aware of fees or is it beware of
fees. Shop for a bank that works for you. Do you always use cash or do you think you’ll
be using your debit card all the time? If you use cash, how will you budget? If you use
debit, how often will you use it and where? There are fees for using someone else’s
ATM. Is there a home ATM close by? You can usually pay for food and stuff with the
debit card directly without incurring too many fees but each bank is different. You need
to understand all of the expenses that go with having a checking and savings account.
Also, a good resource is Credit Unions. They usually have lower fees but fewer ATM’s.

Opening a checking account. The bank representative will take your paycheck and ID’s.
Then, give you an account number with starter checks. The starter checks don’t have your
name or address on them. The bank rep will also ask you what number you would like to
start your checks at. Start with a number over 100 because some places will not accept
checks with lower numbers. They want to see that you have checking experience. Also,
the information that you put on the check is important. NEVER put your social insurance
or social security number on your check. Because of identity theft, you’ll want to keep
the information brief. Address and phone number are good. If you include your ID
number, cashiers may not always check for a photo ID. Again, this provides an
opportunity for someone to steal and use your checks. You will want to use your checks
for rent, rent deposits and other expenses that will require a written record of payment.
This protects you in case someone says you didn’t pay them. You always have proof.
Here is a link on how to write a check.

If we were to use the example above and you brought home 187.60 for the first week,
where would it go? That is how you figure out your budget.

How much do you spend on food everyday? How much can you afford to spend on food
everyday? Where can you cut costs? Add up the daily amount and times it by 7. That is
how much you spend a week on food. Lets say you spend $20 a day on food. You’ve
been eating out, getting coffee at breaktime and snacks. After 7 days, you will have spent
$140 on food. That will leave you with $47.60 for transportation and living expenses for
the week. If you are renting a room that costs $100 per week, you will not be able to pay
your rent and you will become homeless. Even cutting back your spending to $10 per day
for food will only leave you with 117.60 for the week. Your rent is covered but what
about transportation. Will you be able to get to work? What if you have to go to the
laundry mat? How much does it cost to have clean clothes? You will probably spend
about $10 a week doing laundry, more if you have to wear business suits. Here is a link
on how to do laundry.
How much does your transportation cost? Do you pay monthly or daily? If you pay daily,
times this amount by 7 and you will get your weekly transportation cost. If you pay
monthly divide the amount by 30 or 31 and you will get the daily rate. Then you can
multiply that amount by 7 for the weekly rate. If you expenses related to owning a car,
you can figure out the monthly rate then divide it by 30 or 31 and you will get the daily

How much do you pay for rent? Do you pay utilities? Break down these into daily and
weekly rates as well. How much of your weekly paycheck do you have left? Can you
afford to go to the movies or out for a night on the town? Figuring out where you’ll live
is an important decision.

How do you pick a place to live?

Choosing a place to live for the first time can be very confusing. Important questions to
ask are:
     How much is the rent and are utilities included?
     Is it in a safe location?
     Is it close to bus lines, work and grocery stores?
     Is it clean or are there bugs or mice lurking about? You will see droppings or dead
        ones underneath cabinets or in drawers.
     Is there enough water pressure? If the water comes out in a slow stream, that
        means that the water pressure is low. This can be a drag when taking a shower or
        a bath. If it comes shooting out of the faucet, it has high water pressure. You
        would have to be careful of water pipes breaking or water shooting all over the
     Are each of the units on separate water heaters or joined? This will make a
        difference when you are taking a shower. You don’t want to get burned or chilled.
     Who are your neighbours? Are they loud or quiet? Are they going to hear your
        music and complain, possibly getting you thrown out?
     Do you have to sign a lease? This is important if you are not sure whether or not
        you will be staying in this area for a year. What if your situation changes and you
        need to leave? You may have to pay penalties if you leave sooner.
     How much do you have to pay to move in? Many times rentals will require the
        first months rent, last months and a security deposit. If the apartment isn’t in
        exactly the same condition when you move out as when you moved in, you will
        lose your deposit. Some rental agencies will keep your money if you leave a
        phone book or any dust. The best moving advice is to leave the place spotless.
        Don’t take any chances on loosing your security deposit. That way, you will get a
        good reference for your next apartment and can use the money towards your new
      If you decide to move into a rooming house, check to see if you are a good fit
       with the people already living there. Is the house clean? Do other people smoke,
       drink or use drugs? Would you worry about your stuff being stolen? Are there
       sufficient locks on your personal space? Privacy and safety are important. Do you
       have to share a bathroom? Will your stuff be safe in the bathroom or tampered
       with? Are there pets on the premises? Do you have any allergies? Do you have a
       place to store your food? Do you have use of the fridge? Are you comfortable
       putting your food in there? Make sure that you check out all your options before
       committing to a place that you may not like. Most rooming houses don’t require a
       lease, so you can get out of the arrangement easier if you need to. A rooming
       house with people who seem to genuinely get along and respect each other tends
       to keep residents longer. When living with a group of people, you need to be
       respectful too. People have different work and class schedules.

Looking at budgeting and seeing the cost of living can really help you understand why a
career is so important. You want to be able to afford the lifestyle you want. The only way
to do this is to look at the big picture. What are the salary ranges for the jobs you want? Is
minimum wage enough or do you need to make more?

The most important thing for you to do for your career and life is to believe in yourself.
You have something special and unique to contribute. I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve heard people call themselves stupid, bad or messed up. Some of those people were
actual geniuses, with IQ’s over 140, some were in gangs or using drugs; smart people
making poor choices for themselves based on wrong beliefs. What stopped them from
accomplishing their goals in life were limiting beliefs. They felt bad about who they were
because they were abused, unprotected or bullied. Maybe, they struggled in school. Just
because people don’t learn the same way as everyone else, doesn’t mean that they are
stupid. Einstein struggled in school. Many successful people didn’t do well in school. It
doesn’t mean that you are stupid. It just means that you learn differently. You may excel
in creativity. Believe in yourself, first and foremost and others will believe in you too.

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