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?