Being a teenager today is much different from when I was young. I was able to play varsity sports year round, work a part time job and still make the honor roll! Today’s teens face high academic pressure forcing them to study late into the night. Many play club sports that practice several times a week with games on the weekends, or play musical instruments that require hours of daily practice. This leaves little free time, and time that is often unpredictable, making it nearly impossible to take on a part time job at the local ice cream shop.
Whether teens are able to squeeze in a summer gig at a local shop or can pick up some babysitting and petsitting jobs in their neighborhood, the benefits that they will gain from this experience will be tremendous.
Being at a job of any kind requires the teen to prepare and make arrangements. They need to mark their calendar and make sure to show up on time. They will likely have to turn down much more enticing offers from friends to join in on something more fun because they have already committed to an offer for work. They need to present themselves in a way that shows they are trustworthy and hardworking, dressing for the job and speaking to an adult in a professional way.
Once they have completed their job they continue to learn responsibility in how they handle their earnings. They will need to open a bank account and learn to keep their ATM card safe and with them when they need it. They will learn to save and begin to understand the value of the dollar. Do they really want to spend all of their money on that item that seems to be calling their name at that particular moment? Money management skills are essential tools to take with them to college.
Teens who work, whether for a company or by taking odd jobs from friends and neighbors will need to communicate with their employer. Technology is now part of every teen’s daily life and communication with employers is commonly done via email or text. Teens will need to learn how to conduct themselves differently than they do when texting with their friends. If running late or in need of rescheduling, the teen must communicate to resolve any potential conflict and maintain a positive relationship with the employer.
Once at the job site, spoken communication is key as the teen learns what is expected of him or her and to ask questions if unsure. The teen will learn quickly that how they communicate is directly responsible for any future jobs with this employer or referrals for future jobs.
A babysitter who doesn’t show up for his/her first job will learn very quickly that there is no second job. Working is not easy and usually not as much fun as hanging out with friends. As parents, we can help our teens by giving them this opportunity rather than handing them money every time they ask for it. Working for your own spending money teaches teens the value of the dollar. Suddenly, spending $10 at the local coffee shop doesn’t seem like something they want to do when it takes them an hour to work for that money.
Learning that going above and beyond is highly appreciated by employers and may get them a little extra tip becomes an incentive for teens to do a little more than what was asked of them.
Being punctual and taking the time when they are off the clock to check in with the employer or doing something for them that they aren’t getting paid for, goes a long way in showing great work ethic. After all, who wouldn’t re-hire a babysitter who tucks the kids in AND does the dishes?
Adults know that networking is the key to job placement. When a teen takes on a part time job he or she is meeting people who could potentially assist her in the future with jobs, references or internships. A teenager who takes on a baby-sitting job may discover that her employer is a veterinarian when she herself, loves animals and is interested in pursuing this career. She now has someone she can go to for advice and direction as she grows older and potentially looks towards a career in the same field. Network building opportunities exist for our youth which can help them on their journey to college and beyond.
As a society, we are doing our youth a disservice if we send them off to college or into the real world without ever having the opportunity to work when they are young. Now is the time, while we are guiding them, to provide them with the opportunity to learn these valuable lessons that they will take with them into their future and help them better prepare for life after high school.