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First job teaches teen responsibility, value of dollar (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
June 28, 2014 at 1:28 a.m.

Samantha Candia works the register at Peter Piper Pizza in Victoria.

Tips from the boss

Don Butler has 35 years of management experience in the restaurant industry. He said he sees a lot of teens apply for jobs with Peter Piper Pizza and that the interview is the most important part of the hiring process.

"That interview is what makes them or breaks them," he said.

Showing up on time, dressing properly and filling out the entire application are a few of the things he looks at when he's hiring someone.

Once hired, the most common problem he sees with teens is a lack of focus. Being able to see a job through is something managers will look for, Butler said.

Availability is also important for any manager who is hiring to fill a position.

"The more available they are, the more chances they have to get hired," he said.

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series highlighting people taking on their first job or returning to work after retirement.

In August, Samantha Candia will begin her last year as a Victoria West Warrior.

Before that, she'll spend part of her summer vacation behind the counter punching orders into the screen at Peter Piper Pizza or counting tickets for eager children in the game room.

"I like working in the kitchen better," the 16-year-old said. "But they move me around sometimes."

As customers come into the restaurant, Samantha is the first person to greet them when she's assigned to work the register. She takes orders and dispenses tokens for children. At lunchtime, diners pour in - some wearing work boots, and others in neckties and slacks - for a run at the pizza buffet or salad bar.

"It can be overwhelming sometimes," she said. "I'll have a big line of people waiting."

In January, she started searching and applying for jobs. She filled in forms online and picked up paper applications so she could start earning her own money.

"I went to every store in the mall and anyplace that I thought would hire a 16-year-old," Samantha said.

Don Butler, general manager at Peter Piper Pizza, hired Samantha in February. She went through orientation and training and was then assigned a position of party hostess.

The job typically spans between one and a half to two hours long depending on the party, Butler said. Samantha was responsible for working numerous children's parties scheduled on the weekends during the school year. If the kids need more tokens, she would make change for them; if the party needed more napkins, she would be within reach with a stack for the table.

"She's doing really good," Butler said. "She is dependable, and she's a hard worker."

Teen employees can find it hard to learn the ins and outs of their first job and sometimes require managers to tell them what to do. He said Samantha takes a lot of initiative to stay busy during slow periods - something he said he looks for when he's hiring new crew members.

She shows more gumption than the average teenage employee that he's worked with, he said. She's gone through cross-training like many of Butler's employees do, and he said she's showing signs of a reliable worker.

"She's learned a lot in each of the different areas. She's been able to develop in each one," he said.

With school out for summer vacation, Samantha said she has taken on more hours at work and more responsibilities. Rather than only working the parties on the weekends, she's made her way to cashier, filled in making pizzas, prepped salads and cleaned tables - her least favorite of jobs.

"My mom wants me to save for college, so I try to do that a little bit," she said.

Now that she'll take on more hours, she's able to pay her mom more than $80 for her monthly cellphone bill.

In November, her mom bought her a Kia Forte as an early Christmas present after she got her driver's license. She said she wasn't expecting to get a car until her senior year.

"I offered to pay for my car, but my mom said it was too much," Samantha said.

With the extra money she'll earn this summer, she said she's giving her mom an extra $100 to help with the house bills.

Between work, family, her social life and returning to school in August, she's grown a liking for her first job and is eager to work.

"If I don't have anything else to do, I'd rather go to work," she said. If she could work seven days a week, she said, she would.

However, Samantha knows her work must come second to her schoolwork. Luckily, she didn't have a problem juggling her studies and her first job.

"It was pretty easy," she said.

When she started working, her parents, Isabel, 55, and Luis, 47, told her she had to maintain good grades. So far, she said, she's kept a good A and B average.

"'If you can keep up,' I said, 'You can get a job,'" her mom said. "It's a good experience for her to learn to work and earn her own money."

Isabel Candia is proud that her daughter has been able to keep up with the job and also make time for her family and friends. She said her daughter is a funny, honest, bubbly teen with a good head on her shoulders. Samantha has a strong work ethic and and works hard at school and now at work, she said.

When she's not working or at school, Isabel said her daughter is still a typical teenager. After payday, Samantha might go shopping with her friends or go the movies.

"I hope she learns how to manage her money," her mom said. "I've been teaching her that because in the long run she can learn how to manage other things."

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