On Twitter the other day, I had an interesting conversation with some bloggers and followers regarding teenage employment. The conversation was brought on when my colleague told me that he wasn’t allowed to get a job while he was in high school because his parents thought he was too young to work. He didn’t have his first job until the summer between high school graduation and college.
On the other hand, I got my first job flipping burgers at A&W when I was 16. Prior to that, I had a steady babysitting gig which provided me with enough spending money each week to enjoy weekends with my friends at the movie theater and purchase the occasional cute new top and tube of lip gloss.
My mom expected both my brother and I to find employment when we reached the legal age of 15, and enforced it by having us pay for half of our school clothes (well, the ones we wanted. She was willing to pay for less trendy, less expensive styles). We both had jobs throughout high school and I’ve never been unemployed since.
Having a job taught me responsibility, money management skills, and the value of a dollar. It also taught me the value of hard work and gave me a fresh dose of independence which I thoroughly enjoyed. Always a bit of an overachiever, I held down my job, played soccer, and took the typical high school course load (except with honors English). I had reasonably good grades and planned to go to college after graduating.
Almost all of my friends had jobs in high school, so I was surprised when I heard my colleague say that he wasn’t allowed to have one.
After discussing the subject on Twitter and then taking it to my colleagues at work, I’ve come to accept that there are a few different factors at play:
Many families can’t afford to have their kids in all of the sports and activities that they want to be involved in, while still dressing and feeding their growing teens and usually a house full of their friends as well. Having a job as a teenager helped take the edge off of my single mother’s tight budget, and while it wasn’t a necessity in the truest sense of the word, it saved her a lot of stress and debt.
If you are having trouble making ends meet as it is, and you can hardly keep up with the demanding needs of a teen, maybe picking up a few hours a week at the local grocery store wouldn’t hurt.
I wasn’t part of that many activities in high school. I played some sports but not a ton of them, and not all competitively. Time is a factor in high school, because teenagers will be in school all day. It’s like having a full-time job. If they are in dozens of activities that are important to them as well, there may not even be time for a job. The ability to balance a schedule with hobbies, activities and other commitments, plus focus on school can teach responsibility, so your teen may be able to learn and grow in that respect without a job.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention personality being a huge factor in when a teen should get a job. Some kids are able to hold down a job and maintain their grades, but some aren’t. This doesn’t mean that they are less capable or less competent, but maybe they need to focus on one thing at a time. This is fair. If this is the case, many companies want to hire help for the summer which can teach your teen the same skills as year round employment without interfering with their studies.
There are many factors which can come into play when looking at when (and whether) your teen should become employed, but everybody is individual and every family is unique, so there is no one right answer.
When did you get your first job?
I got my first job at 14, and I’d recommend my kids to do this as well. I’d intervene if I saw grades slipping, and would always support them if they chose to play sports or get involved with extracurriculars, but learning money management and making mistakes early on is invaluable.
My first real job (outside of delivering newspapers as a kid) was when I was 16. I worked at the community swimming pool in the concession stand during the summers. I learned how to relate to adults other than my parents and how to handle relationships with my coworkers. I also learned a lot about cleanliness because you never knew when the health department might show up for an inspection.
I got my first job when I was 15…..but even before that I had paper routes and did lawn mowing. My son is now 14, and I’m starting to put the bug in his ear that if he wants to buy stuff, he may want to consider checking out his options.
I started working at 14. I don’t regret it one bit!
Daisy! These are great questions to ponder. I worked since age 16 (summer jobs only), but I am glad that I did not work too much, including hardly working at all during college, because it allowed me put in my 10,000 hours many times over on the guitar. Now I can charge “nice” rates to teach an instrument I love and I have a skill level that few enjoy which I can use the rest of my life or until I blow my hands out.
My children did not work during the school year because of involvement in sports and other activities, but they did work during the summers. In addition, they worked for me at my business (restaurant) during vacations.
That’s amazing! At least, you get to see them while at work.
I got my first job after high school, because I didn’t have transportation & my mom wasn’t willing to drive me to work.
My 2 sons worked summers when they were in high school. One tried having a part-time job during the school year, but it was too much. Both of my sons played travel soccer, high school soccer & one played high school football as well. No way to fit a job into that schedule with school work!
In my opinion, high school is a time for sports & activities that you can’t have when you’re older. You’ll have the rest of your life to spend working!
It really does depend on the child. I started working in the summers at 14. When I was 16, I worked during the school year at McDonalds then KFC. I also was an active participant in Community Drill Team, Track and Field, School Step & Dance. All while maintaing a solid GPA with Star level and AP level courses. Now, I am great at multi-tasking in my 9-5 job. Getting many things done at the same time and all effectively was something I mastered at a young age.
I got my first job when I was very young delivering newspapers and I believe to this day that is what taught me a great deal about money and responsibility early on in life. My parents were big into teaching me the difference between want and need but the job made me feel important, like I was in charge of something special. If there is a paper route and my child wants to do it I would encourage them to do so. I think working and giving kids a taste of the real world is being realistic because it won’t be long until it is a reality, for good.
I think letting your teenager work or not, depends on the amount of activities of the child in school. If it will get in the way of school activities, then better leave it for later, but if you really feel that it is necessary not just for financial gain, but more so for the emotional growth and good learning experience that it will provide your kids then let them.
According the the U.S. Bureau of Labor, back in 1989, 56% of all teenagers (age 16-19) actively participated in the workforce. Sadly, according their revised report of 2012, that percentage has dropped to just under 33%. That means that in the last twenty-five years, we’ve gone from a country where more than half of all teens had jobs to one where now less than a third of all teens are actively participating in the workforce. And the number drops even lower (only 26%) for teens in urban areas.
I started baby sitting around 12, then tutored through high school, and flipped burgers at 18. My siblings didn’t work until college and their grades weren’t as good as mine. I think the more you do, the more responsible and organized you become, so better start early.