I am 17, and my parents are going to kick me out on my 18th birthday in August to make me homeless… by Richard Muller
Answer by Richard Muller:
I will assume that your parents are not bluffing. (I hope they are.)
Apply for a drivers license or other official ID immediately. You’ll need that. Put your home address on it; even if you are homeless, you can collect mail there.
Recognize that your first job will have to be menial. Maybe packing bags at a supermarket; maybe just cleaning floors after hours. Don’t be concerned about the job; the most important thing is to begin to accumulate money. Save most of the money you make. Once you have $100, open a bank account. (The bank officers will be very friendly and they will be delighted to open an account for you, but you can’t do it with nothing.)
How to find a job? Walk down the street and stop at the stores. Tell them you are looking for a job. If they don’t have one, ask who they suggest. Talk to the local postman. He visits everywhere and probably knows who is looking for help. Maybe it will be a job at a restaurant, maybe washing dishes, or greeting people, or (if you are lucky) being a waiter.
If the postman has no suggestions, ask the postman whom he would suggest. Always do that. Be prepared for failure in job hunting and for frustration. Repeat this to yourself: “I only need one job.”
Get your very best clothes and start wearing them. The old cliché is true: you get only one chance to make a first impression. Don’t worry about “overdressing”.
To anyone who wants to hire you, feel free to explain your situation, and tell them that you are willing to do anything. Promise you’ll be on time and reliable. If they want, commit to work for them for a year (or six months or whatever they ask for). In your job interview, be sure to listen. Pay careful attention to everything your potential employer says. Odds are they have already rejected applicants who didn’t listen to them; what they want more than almost anything is an employee who can hear and follow instructions.
Whenever someone says, “No, we are not hiring” ask that person if he knows someone who does need help. This process is called “networking”, and it is an extremely important skill. If person A says you should try person B, then when you approach person B, you start with “I spoke to person A and he suggested you might be hiring.” But never lie. If he asks you how you know person A, tell the truth, maybe something like this: “I asked if he was hiring anyone and he said no, but he thought maybe you were.”
Never lie. People will hire you for your character, not for your experience (since you have none). They may ask how well you’ve done at school; if you’ve done poorly, say so, but explain that you promise to work hard at your job. They may want to know why your parents threw you out; whatever the reason is, be sure to give not only your perspective but theirs.
Where to stay? Look for a youth hostel or other organization that caters to people in your situation. You’ll discover you’re not alone. Again, network to find such a place. Don’t be ashamed to ask a homeless man if he knows a good place for a bed.
A good friend of mine was kicked out of his home when he was about your age; he supported himself by doing street magic, and eventually got a job at a magic shop. Eventually he earned a Ph.D. in physics at UCLA. There’s a long story there, and someday you too will have a long story to tell.
You are now in charge of your life. Don’t depend on luck, and you’ll likely be lucky. (If you count on luck, you probably won’t get any.) But do think about your life. Plan on “slow and steady”. You have lots of time, and can do very well if you are persistent. After you feel you have mastered your first job, begin working on the second one. Remember, of course, that nothing will help as much as a good recommendation from your first employer. It will be slow, but you are not rebuilding your life; you are building it, and it is worth the effort.