Why Working Now Translates into Brighter Futures
Our family has crossed the threshold and there is no turning back – our oldest teenager is now gainfully employed with her first “real” part-time job. I admit it is a bittersweet time for me as a mother as we move from a family that has been able to adjust our schedules together and take advantage of opportunities for adventures together. Now those adventures will have to work around work for our oldest. But as my husband said when she asked him if he thought she should accept the job offer: You’re a teenager and you’ve been offered a job doing something you enjoy – take the job.
Teenagers Who Work Have Brighter Futures
According to a recent report, teenagers who work part-time are building benefits that will pay dividends in the future. However, employment is not always easy to find, and it appears not all teens are pursuing employment options. Almost 1 out of every 4 teens ages 16 to 19 were unemployed in February of 2012 in the United States, evidence of the climbing unemployment rate for teens of 23.8%. To compare that, a decade ago or so that rate was at or below 15% among teens.
These rising numbers do not comfort market analysts. Heidi Shierholz, a market economist describes how the teen unemployment numbers are reflective of the national employment numbers and unfortunately, are indicators of future economic problems for these teens as they enter adulthood.
- Working teens boost their future income potentials. High school seniors who work part-time were 7 or 8 years later more likely to earn more than 10% above the salaries of their classmates who did not work as high school seniors.
- Teens who don’t work tend to become adults who use state and federal assistance programs.
- Teens who work part-time are more likely to achieve higher levels of education beyond high school.
- Teens who work part-time feel more dependable and responsible, translating into higher self-esteem and motivations to continue succeeding.
- Teens who work build important life skills, even as basic as teamwork and prioritizing strategies.
- Teens who work learn effective communication skills and job-seeking strategies.
The Problems with Teens in the Workforce
I have a hard time recalling not working as a teen. I began babysitting when I was just 10 years old, working 45 hours a week as a sitter during the summers until I turned 16 when I got my first “real” job in retail. As a teen I never really considered the negative impacts my work might have on myself and those around me. However, research and my own experiences as a mom show that while teens benefit from employment there are pitfalls for which we and they need to be prepared.
- Teens who work more than 20 hours a week are at higher risks for school dropouts.
- Teens who work part-time often have less family time (this is one thing that is most difficult for me as mom to embrace).
- Teens who work part-time tend to have more disagreements with their parents, perhaps because of increased struggles for independence or stress levels for teens.
- Teens are less likely to contribute to daily household chores.
- Young adults and adults in the workforce during a recession need those jobs in ways different from teens.
- Teens who work are more likely to suffer sleep deprivation and to experiment with tobacco and alcohol.
Helping Teens Find Good Jobs
In our home it is expected that effort is put forth when you are ready – and this is no different when it comes to the job market. We have encouraged our children to look for work that allows them to build some basic skill sets, provide money they can learn to manage, and helps them to work toward their individual goals. Along the way we have watched them and their friends struggle with finding work and have seen firsthand how teens can find themselves in the minority of the working teen class.
- Begin volunteering at an early age. It teaches life skills, practical skills, and gets you involved with community members.
- Broaden your horizons. Working as a teenager shouldn’t be miserable loads of expectations, but especially in this economy teens need to learn to start small and build from there.
- Feel the freedom. For teenagers this is perhaps one of the only times in life when the status of employment won’t affect the possibility of the next meal, ruin the mortgage payment plan, or risk healthcare for the family. Encourage your kids to take advantage of the freedom from these responsibilities and take time to try job markets that might otherwise not be considered.
It was a surreal experience to proofread my child’s job applications and résumé, but it was also an empowering experience for both of us. As a parent I realized I had done sufficient effort to prepare her for the job market, and she realized that she does have contributions she can make. Those part-time jobs for teens are important steps on the big staircase of life and I am excited to watch as my children navigate their paths.