In our extremely busy home, the suggestion that our teen daughter do something “extra” evokes a cacophony of responses. This includes some type of eye roll, hands being raised to various levels with above the shoulder being the most dramatic, and a verbalization that we are “so annoying” and didn’t we realize she has zero time for this request.
Given this environment, I have a similar biological response when my teen wants to add something to her own ever-overflowing plate. As the parent of two teenage athletes, I have spent the last several years trying to help them navigate time commitments. In addition to the general responsibilities of academics and extracurricular activities, my 16-year-old daughter recently informed us she was getting a part-time job.
In response to this, my first instinct was to dust off my soap box and begin my well-planned lecture. “When I was old enough to work, I had two part-time jobs in the summer and one during the school year. In fact, ALL of my friends had jobs.”
Lucky for my child, I am learning to use more restraint in pulling out said soap box. I do realize that the differences between my responsibilities as a high school student and that of my own children are many. I was not pressured to be overscheduled, and I was not anxious that my college resume would not be good enough. And, I did not wonder where the time for a part-time job would come from.
In our current culture, however, many teens and their parents may question the value of a part-time job. As high school students focus on building competitive resumes for college applications, they must balance grades, extracurriculars, volunteer hours, as well as part-time work. I would argue, however, that a part-time job is also of value and an asset to any high school resume.
To discuss the benefit of student employment, I reached out to college advisor Jim McKinney. Jim is the owner of Capitol College Planning. Jim shared with me that, “Colleges value work experience because it shows you’ve learned responsibility as well as skills with time management and teamwork.” In fact, Jim explained that “Colleges won’t expect students with significant work obligations to have the same level of extracurricular involvement as students who don’t work.”
In addition to these noted benefits, a job can also introduce a teen to finance management. With a job, my daughter is managing her direct deposits and all aspects of her checking and savings accounts. Our bank, like most, offers a youth checking account. The minimum age for this type of account is between 12 and 17, and it does not require a minimum balance.
Aside from my support of a part-time job as a parent, I am also a firm believer in the role of a job in a teen’s psychological development as a practicing counselor. As a child and adolescent therapist, I frequently have the opportunity to work with teens who are managing part-time jobs. I see the positive impact a job can have on a teen’s self-concept and self-identity. While adolescents work to assess where they fit into the world, a job can positively impact this process.
Lastly, a job can provide a sense of pride and self-satisfaction. In a job, an employee is on his own to show up on time and fulfill his job duties. There is no parent at the workplace to remind them of responsibilities and schedules. And, unlike a parent, an employer can definitely fire an employee who is not fulfilling her duties.
Finding time for a part-time job is no easy task with the schedules teens maintain. And we parents are learning how to support this process while providing guidance and resources. A part-time job may only be an option over holidays or summer breaks for some teens. For others, schedules may not allow for this option at all. But, when schedules allow for it, I strongly support part-time work for teens. Aside from valuable life skills, a job teaches the very skills required to be a good roommate. Trust me when I say future roommates will thank you when they learn your child is able to wash and put away a dish, use a vacuum cleaner, and clean a shared kitchen.