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What Teens Gain from Summer Jobs

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My youngest son, Garret, has been looking for a summer job for several weeks. He has applied online and in person at many places. Part of the problem why he hasn’t found anything may be because he isn’t sixteen yet. He won’t be for a few more weeks. Still, my husband is insistent Garret works this summer, not just for the money he will earn, but also for the character building that goes along with holding a job.

A few years ago, my older son, Jake, landed a summer job at a nearby pizza restaurant. He cleaned toilets, he bused tables, he served food and he rolled napkins. He also learned about teamwork, responsibility, and he saw people who worked two jobs to support families and make ends meet. The more work shifts Jake took on, and the more money he made, the more he loved the job. At the end of the summer, he didn’t want to quit. So, we worked out an arrangement in which he worked one weeknight and one weekend night throughout the rest of high school. Having responsibility and learning how to deal with all kinds of personalities in a workplace was as important as any lesson Jake learned in high school.

Already, Garret has already learned his first lesson of job hunting. Convinced he would get the job he was interviewing for at Chipotle, he didn’t bother looking elsewhere as much as he should have. That job fell through because of his young age. Now, he’s out filling out applications and scrambling with all the other teens looking for summer jobs. As a parent, I have had to pull back, offer encouragement and watch it all play out.

Here are the lessons I have learned about teens and summer jobs.

1. Let them do it their way.

Part of growing up is learning how to interview, fill out job applications and make an impression. Most teens don’t want your advice on how to do that.

2. Encourage them to revisit employers.

The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees usually have high turnover. An employer that did not hire a couple of weeks ago might need more workers as the summer arrives.

3. Discuss transportation.

Landing a job is great but getting there may become an issue. This summer, several of us in my family with be sharing cars. Who can take a bus or bicycle and who needs a car and when is conversation that needs to happen on the front end, before anyone finds themselves stranded at work.

4. Don’t let them quit.

After landing a job, most teens will try to quit the first time they are asked to do something gross. Now that my older son has had to clean a toilet, he realizes that teamwork means someone must do the dirty jobs.

5. Encourage them to speak up.

Many employers will try to take advantage of teens during the summer. This has happened to both of my older kids. Learning to speak up about compensation or work hours or ridiculous expectations is part of being an employee.

6. Make them set their own alarms.

Holding a job requires being on time. As much as I wanted my teens to impress their boss, I realized they needed to learn responsibility and that means getting to work on time and caring enough about the consequences to make sure it happens.

7. Ask for references.

When summer ends, it is the ideal time to ask an employer for a future reference (this goes for teens who have internships, too). It’s better to ask a boss immediately for a reference than to try to track him or her down months or even years later.

Last summer saw the strongest teen employment since 2013, but this year the hiring forecast isn’t as rosy because retailers that typically hire teens are struggling. Still, there are summer jobs out there for teens — if they look in the right places, says John Challenger, whose company publishes annual teen summer job outlook. John suggests teens look for opportunities in industries that have been adding jobs this year, such as transportation, hospitality, food service, or construction.

Garret already has discovered it can be difficult to find a job as a teen. But hopefully he will soon be employed, and by the end of summer will learn that having a job has a payoff, way more than just the money he earns.

Guest post by Cindy Goodman, Raising Teens Blog


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