These days, teenagers are busier than ever. Many play sports or musical instruments, are involved in school clubs and activities, and are under a pile of homework each night. Unfortunately, what’s falling through the cracks in the busy lives of our teenagers is that first part-time job. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of teenagers in the workforce has been steadily declining. In 1979, 58% of teens (ages 16-19) had jobs. That number was down to 34% in 2011. If the rate of decline continues, that number projects to plummet to 26.4% by the year 2024.
Parents may believe that they’re helping their teenagers by not encouraging them, or in some cases, even allowing them, to have a part-time job so they can focus on their other activities. The truth is, though, that your teenager’s first job is an invaluable learning experience. Usually, that first part-time job in high school is not enjoyable. It’s menial and it pays too little. Why put your child through that when he or she should be focusing on grades and activities? Because, when your child gets that job and steps out into “the real world,” even for a few hours a week, the lessons learned are invaluable going forward. Let’s check out what your child can gain and learn.
Get outside a comfort zone
Your teen will have to leave the bubble and learn new things, such as using a cash register or waiting on customers, interacting with people outside his or her social circle.
Learn to read people and act appropriately
Be it a disgruntled customer or a difficult boss, your teen will learn the importance of empathy.
Learn how to manage money
Having a job is a great way to learn money management skills. To do this, your teen needs to be putting a specified percentage of earnings into the bank toward life beyond high school, or just paying for things such as food or a phone.
Learn about responsibility and teamwork
At a first job, your teen will have some kind of responsibility, whether it’s keeping a balanced cash drawer or cleaning a bathroom. When he or she doesn’t do the work, it can affect co-workers. Your teen will learn that things work best when everyone works together as a team.
Learn the importance of a professional appearance
Teens become accustomed to jeans and a t-shirt. A job instills a bit of knowledge into what encompasses professional attire in the real world.
Network and make new friends
High school tends to be its own little, closed microcosm. Often, the friends there are the same ones your teen hangs with outside of school. A first job offers a chance to get to know new people.
Take a glimpse into the future
Adults don’t get entire summers off. Adults pay taxes. Adults rely on their paychecks, not their parents, for necessities. Getting a real understanding of this now will help your teen avoid sticker shock upon college graduation.
The job that your teen does to earn money for concert tickets or the movies is the same one that someone else needs to live. For many people, these jobs are a necessity for survival. Your teen will get to know and appreciate those who make ends meet on very little.
Gain a sense of independence and pride
Working allows your teen to say, “I got this!”
Learn the importance of punctuality and time management
If your teen is late to work, money is lost and other people have to pick up the slack. Learning to juggle work hours along with any extracurricular activities is an invaluable skill as well.
Get some ambition
Most of the jobs that teens get are menial and tedious, not meant for the long term. This encourages the teen to go to college and learn a trade or other skills that can lead to a better-paying, more satisfying job.
You know what they say about idle hands. Work will give your teen something to do that doesn’t involve sitting on the couch or sitting in front of a computer watching YouTube.
Get some help gaining college admission
College admissions officers look for more than good grades and clubs or sports participation. A part-time job shows that your teen is a hard worker and a well-rounded person.
Beef up the resume
Sure, getting a degree or trade skills is important, but when a potential employer looks at a resume, it also wants to see some real-world experience, even if it’s not outwardly related to a major or trade. Employers don’t see it as merely “flipping burgers,” they see someone who’s learned the valuable lessons that go with holding down a job.
It’s important to note that your teenager shouldn’t work too many hours. The confidence that comes with working a part-time job can actually boost grades, but those benefits go down if the teen works more than 15 hours per week. In fact, studies show that high school dropout rates go up for kids who work more than 15 hours a week.
Young children think the world revolves around them. Their parents watch closely to make sure they don’t get hurt; they give them the food they need; and they provide entertainment to keep them happy. This carries on through the formative years, and eventually, they learn to provide for all of these “needs” themselves. Stepping out into a world that doesn’t revolve around them can be a harsh jolt of reality. By getting a part-time job and taking a dip in the proverbial real world pool, your teenager will gain the confidence and real-world problem-solving skills that are necessary for adult life. It’ll go unnoticed at first. However, once an adult, the teen will look back on that first job with an appreciation of the invaluable lessons learned.