Teens and Work

To work, or not to work? That’s a question that everyone has an opinion on! When it comes to whether or not teens should get a job, the options are as diverse as the opinions. Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to homeschooling, neither is there an answer to this question that’s a perfect fit for every family and teen.

 

When navigating the question or working during the teen years, the best place to start is by having a conversation with your teen. Discuss their goals, dreams, and their plans for the years after high school graduation. All of this will help you both zero in on which options will best support those plans.

 

Also important is helping your teen understand their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and how those relate to the best kind of work for them to pursue. Someone who is outgoing and good with people may shine in sales, while a more reserved, quiet person would bloom in a more behind-the-scenes job. Ambitious teens whose “stubborn streak” gives them the perseverance to keep working hard through difficult circumstances just might be the next successful entrepreneur. One with a real talent for music and a desire to make a career out of their passion could be best served by signing up for extra music classes instead of that part-time job. Share your own observations with your teen, and help them look at themselves and their abilities objectively.

 

With so many options to explore, your teen is bound to find one that works for them.

 

Traditional Job

There’s something to be said for a job that allows you to “punch a time card” and collect a steady paycheck. Learning to be on time for your shift, accepting direction, and receiving feedback about your work gracefully are all benefits of working in a traditional job situation. If your teen works best when following instructions and receiving guidance from someone else, then a traditional job with a manager directing them and setting their work schedule is a good option.

 

Advantages:

  • A job provides steady hours, usually with a schedule set ahead of time.
  • A consistent paycheck allows teens to save up for a car, college, travel, etc.
  • Opportunities for advancement are available based on performance and hard work.
  • A teen is able to explore a particular industry further before committing to further training or education.
  • Companies may offer full or partial reimbursement for college courses taken by employees.

 

Disadvantages

  • Schedule may not be flexible, thus limiting the ability to participate in other activities.
  • Minimum hours required by their employer may not leave enough time for their studies.
  • Transportation to or from work may be problematic if your teen does not have their own car, or access to public transportation.

 

Odd Jobs

How many of us gained our first work experience by babysitting or mowing lawns? There’s always someone who’s willing to pay for services such as this, and picking up odd jobs allows a young person to work as many or as few hours as will fit into their schedule. If your teen works best independently and has developed strong time-management and scheduling skills, then odd jobs may be the perfect fit.

Advantages

  • Odd jobs provide flexibility in scheduling, allowing a teen to work more or less based on their needs.
  • This type of work allows a teen to translate skills they already have into a profitable work opportunity.
  • Teens can gain experience in scheduling and negotiating rates with clients.

 

Disadvantages

  • Unpredictable income makes it more difficult to budget spending and saving.
  • Availability of work is dependent upon word of mouth referrals or advertising.
  • One unsatisfied client can negatively impact a teen’s ability to pick up more odd jobs.

 

Family Business

A family business offers a rare opportunity to gain experience in multiple aspects of an industry. In a given week, a teen might be working in accounting, management, customer service, and more! If your teen has an interest in areas of your business, and they work well with family, this could be a good option.

 

Advantages

  • This option provides more flexibility in scheduling than a traditional job, while maintaining the accountability of working scheduled hours.
  • Teens have opportunities to learn and explore various aspects of business without switching jobs.
  • This option provides good preparation for a teen whose career goal is to take over the family business one day.

 

Disadvantages

  • Pay may not be as high as an outside job.
  • Working with the people who you already see all day, every day may cause extra friction in family relationships.

 

Starting a Business

This option has a lot in common with picking up odd jobs, but would include sales, manufacturing, and other options that don’t quite fit in the odd jobs category. For teens with an eye on entrepreneurship, this is an excellent way to test the waters before they have to rely on their income to pay the rent! If your teen is disciplined, organized, and has the perseverance to not give up when the going gets tough, they may be an excellent business owner. It’s not a good fit for teens who need a lot of direction and tend to procrastinate.

Advantages

  • Anything from jewelry-making to raising chickens can be turned into a business venture.
  • A teen gains valuable, real-world business experience.
  • Local business associations may offer mentoring programs or scholarships for young

business owners.

 

Disadvantages

  • Typically, capital must first be invested to get a business up and running.
  • There’s risk involved, and a business may not make a profit, or even recoup the initial investment.
  • The time required to run a successful business may not leave adequate time for required studies.

 

Temporary Job

Holidays and summer months frequently provide temporary job openings. If your teen wants to earn some extra money and gain job experience, but can’t commit to a regular part-time job schedule, then a seasonal job might be just right for them.

Advantages

  • A temp job allows for trying out various types of jobs over the course of the teen years because each employment period is short-term.
  • Temporary openings may lead to a long-term job in the future if an employer is impressed by a teen’s work.
  • A fairly predictable income amount allows for saving towards a particular expense.

 

Disadvantages

  • Scheduling for seasonal employees tends to be the least flexible. If employment is over the holidays, this may mean a teen won’t be able to participate in family plans for the holiday.
  • As it is short-term, a temporary job may not be sufficient to cover expenses if your teen’s goal is something along the lines of purchasing and maintaining a car.

 

Volunteer Work

This is one of the options that won’t earn your teen a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean there are no benefits! If your teen is passionate about a particular cause or industry that they can’t find part-time employment in, then a volunteer position might be their best option.

Advantages

  • Volunteer work looks good on college applications, scholarship applications, and even a resume!
  • Teens can gain experience and make contacts in the field they desire to have a career in.
  • Some organizations may place priority on applicants who are volunteers when hiring paid positions.

 

Disadvantages

  • There’s no paycheck attached to volunteer work. This is problematic if your teen needs an income or wants to save for college.
  • Some volunteer positions require a sizable time commitment that may interfere with studies. It may be tempting to justify letting education suffer because the volunteer work is helping others.

 

Academic Focus

There are valid reasons to eschew working or volunteering in favor of keeping a focus on academics during the teen years. If your teen struggles with health issues or learning disabilities, then concentrating on their education without the distraction of a job may be best for their health and their future. If a teen’s plans for college are dependent on receiving large scholarships, then it may make more sense for them to focus solely on academics.

Advantages

  • A focus on academics can result in less stress due to overscheduling.
  • Teens have the ability to focus on music classes, sports, or other interests.
  • Dual enrollment courses require a significant time commitment that does not always fit well with a side job.
  • Better grades and test scores increases opportunities for scholarships.
  • More time may be spent applying for scholarships and studying to improve SAT or ACT scores.

 

Disadvantages

  • An academics-only focus doesn’t allow for saving towards a car or college tuition.
  • It may be more difficult to find a job in college or after college due to lack of previous work experience.

 

Your Decision

Look at all of the options, and help your teen brainstorm how each one might benefit them. Keep in mind that what works for one teen may not work for their sibling. A combination of more than one of the options listed here could be ideal for your teen, or maybe even something that’s not on the list. Don’t be afraid to let them explore various ideas, and maybe even fail at something! There’s nothing that says you can’t change course mid-way through the teen years if it turns out one option isn’t working, or if your family’s circumstances change.

The teen years are full of change. You get to see your child take their first steps towards launching into their own career and becoming more independent. Whichever path your teen chooses, your guidance and encouragement are still needed in these decisions – even if that looks a little different than it did when they were younger. Enjoy the journey!

 

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