Editor’s Note: Face-off is a YouTern weekly series that looks at the same career question from different generational perspectives… and presents different answers. Please let us know if this new take on career advice is helpful – and which perspective makes the most sense to you!
With student loan debt becoming an even bigger issue, combined with the need to compete in a very competitive job market, many high schoolers are faced with securing internships and skill-building part-time work. Why? Because they, or their parents, feel the need to get a head start on becoming employable.
Does that mean every high school student should work? Or should they enjoy their last few years of being a kid?
Lauren Kirkpatrick, Millennial Professional:
I’m a strong believer that teenagers should start working in high school. But that may be because I learned so much from the jobs I had during my high school years. By the time I got to college, I felt like I was ahead of many of my peers.
My parents always told me if I wanted to buy something I had to work for it. I developed an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age so I could afford to buy whatever I was into at the moment, as well as save for a car when I turned 16. I knew I couldn’t legally work until I was older, but that didn’t stop me from getting creative.
In middle school, I created study cards with test material that I sold to my fellow classmates. By age 12, my sister and I started a printing business to make business cards, birthday cards, flyers and invitations. We sold them to family friends, neighbors and my dad’s business associates. I started babysitting at 13 and built a small list of families that kept me busy at least one night a week. By 16, I was working in my father’s office twice a week answering phones, filing and cleaning. None of the jobs I had consumed a tremendous amount of my time, but they were all excellent learning opportunities.
The most useful skill I learned from working as a teen? Time management.
In high school, I took all AP classes, had a variety of band activities each season, and was involved in my church youth group. I learned very quickly how to balance my time — and my interests – while building toward my future. It wasn’t always easy, and there were times I had to sacrifice watching TV or hanging out with my friends in order to get everything done. But by the time I got to college, balancing activities, school work, a job and a personal life was a piece of cake.
I also learned how to manage my money. Full disclosure: my dad is a financial planner so I had a savings account at age 3 and a mutual fund by the time I was 5. Understanding the value of money has always been important in our family, and that fact alone has given me a leg up in adulthood.
When I started earning money, my parents instituted a “10 percent rule” that I still try to follow today. 10 percent of whatever I earned went into my savings account, and 10 percent went into my mutual fund. Whatever was left was mine to spend, but I was responsible for gas and upkeep on my car.
Finally, I developed a strong set of soft skills like communication, adaptability and problem solving. Every job I had came with its own set of problems that I learned how to deal with.
The fact that I worked in high school doesn’t come up in job interviews anymore. But when I interviewed for internships and organizations in college I definitely relied on my experience for examples of my industriousness, and how much I already knew about employee responsibility.
Based on my experience, I would encourage any teenager to start gaining work experience immediately.
I would even say my odd (some certainly more odd than others!) jobs helped me become a well-rounded person which helped me get into college. It sounds cliche, but working during my high school years was definitely worth it.
Dominick Finetti, Young Millennial and Recent Graduate
I want to echo what Lauren said…
I’ve been working since I was 17 years old and honestly if I could go back, I would have started earlier. I’ve had 20 plus jobs up until this past year when I started working full time after graduating from college. And that number doesn’t include all the freelance gigs I’ve had.
My mother may not be very religious, but she is basically the epitome of a Jewish mother. If she could have provided me professional development in the womb, she would have. And yes, it was strongly encouraged that I work and prepare myself for my future from a very young age.
They key I learned from working as a teen is that excelling is not only dependent on yourself — especially when you are young and inexperienced. You need an environment where your supervisors are also mentors, teachers, and support you in both your work AND home life. You need resources that set you up for success.
I’m not asked about working as a teen in interviews often; I find I have to bring up my professional development, growth opportunities and mentorship myself.
I don’t feel I missed out on anything because I started working early on and pushed myself to find better opportunities every step of the way.
Well, I “missed out” on having to work customer service, retail, and food service roles.
As you might imagine, I’m not complaining.
Stephan Thompson, GenX Father of Four
I am not in favor of my children working in their early teens; I simply want them to enjoy their teenage years without the pressure of working a part-time job. They are already extremely busy between sports (football, track and cheerleading) and studying for advanced classes in high school. Getting a part-time job severely reduces the amount of free time they have to just relax and enjoy family and friends.
Additionally, they knew at an early age that as a single father of triplets it would be difficult for me to help them with college tuition. So they were told they would need to study hard to get the best grades possible so they earn scholarships. As a result, they are all motivated and doing very well in school; taking time away from that with a part-time job could be a detriment to their academic and athletic success.
The other issue I have with them working is that Dad would be the taxi service needed to get them back and forth to their jobs. With three 16 year olds, that would mean driving three people in three different directions to get them to those jobs.
I do, though, see the positives in getting a job; they’ll earn spending money, learn to work with others, take direction, and all of the responsibilities that come with employment. But I think this can be accomplished at home as well. I understand the competitive job market they’ll enter, and I predict that this, their sophomore year, things will change. My daughters are talking about applying for jobs so they can earn their own money.
But I don’t ever regret allowing them to be children for a just a little while longer.