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Michal Mayo-Dvir, Psy.D., LMFT | Article

Hard Work Pays Off: 7 Good Reasons Why Teens Should Work

1/26/2015
When you think of the lives of teens and young adults, what comes to mind? parties, fun, dating, and overall a carefree lifestyle. This perception isn't far from reality. During adolescence teens are often focused on the social realm and though many of them work hard to get to college, less and less of them are actually working to sponsor their carefree lifestyle or save for college. In fact, the number of teens reported to have worked a summer job had plunged from 52 percent in 1999 to 32 percent in 2013 (Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2013). That finding is important because a substantial body of research demonstrates that teens who work do better socially and economically and even graduate from college at a higher rate (Michael Gritton,executive director of the Workforce Investment Board, Louisville, Ky).


Though the decline in teen employment can be attributed to the economic crisis of 2008 or to the greater emphasis universities now place on life experience and community service, parental and cultural trends also play an important role in this process. Specifically, the mindset that parents should unconditionally give of themselves, their time, and money to their children in effort to ensure their happiness has led parents to over-pamper their kids to the point of literally spoiling them beyond reason. Being treated this way by their parents, children often become unmotivated and develop a strong sense of entitlement. They believe they deserve and thus demand of their parents the most expensive and often unneeded gifts, such as brand name clothes, cars, cell phones and other electronic gadgets. Parents are often unaware that their child's lack of motivation to work or study actually emanates from the fact that all his needs are met by them. When nothing is missing there is no call for action. Therefore, parents who want their children to grow up to be functional and healthy adults should motivate their children to work by creating artificial deprivation. Our teenagers should be learning the importance of working hard for what they want and one way to impart this lesson is by not simply providing teens all they desire, but rather by leading them to work hard to pursue their wishes.


Starting early is highly advisable as the experience teens gain in their first jobs as high schoolers is priceless. The valuable lessons learned through work cannot be acquired in the classroom or via any other academic or theoretical channel. The following are the gifts and values teens gain from working:


1. Budgeting Skills & Appreciation for the Value of Money:

Teen who work and sponsor their own personal necessities or leisure activities learn the value of money and how to budget it well. Once they realize the amount of time and effort they have to devote to their job in order to earn enough to cover their expenses, they not only develop an appreciation for money but also effective money management and responsible purchasing skills. Learning to manage money is a very important life skill and learning it early on benefits teens later in life as they leave home for college and embark on their life journeys.


2. Financial independence & Self Esteem

The sense of accomplishment and financial freedom associated with holding a job as a teen and being able to purchase for yourself the things you desire is strongly linked to a higher self esteem and feeling of personal and financial security. by working to earn their own money, teens learn not only the value of hard work but also that with responsibility and dedication come "privilege" and financial independence. Moreover, work experience which teaches teens a variety of job and life skills often translates into a higher self esteem and overall sense of confidence and resilience in life in general.


3. Help build a resume

In addition to feeling good about yourself and not being a burden on others, holding a job also looks good on your resume or college application. Listing work experience on your resume or college application show prospective colleges and employers that you are a motivated, hard-working individual and will set you ahead of peers who have no prior work experience. Teen, please note that work experience not only plays to your advantage on college or job applications but is translated very well into the dating world:-)


4. Acquire Skills & Get to Know Yourself Better

Gaining early work experience may give students an advantage in the job market once they reach adulthood. Working different jobs as a teen exposes her to a variety of skills, such as the ability to convey a sense of professionalism through dress and speech, and thus make her more attractive to future employers. In addition, teens who work in different jobs may figure out earlier than their nonworking peers which career would best match their interests and abilities, and during this early life phase already build professional contacts they can draw on later in life.


5. Job Searching Skills

When pursuing different job opportunities teens have a chance to get introduced to the process of job searching, practice and develop effective interviewing skills, and learn to deal with rejection when their applications are turned down.


6. Interpersonal Skills

The best and only way to acquire social skills is by interacting with people of various ages and backgrounds in different capacities and settings. Working with others at an early age in the context of a job, enhances a teens' communication and interpersonal skills and prepares them for life as adults in the job market. Interacting with people at work teaches teens about team work, tolerance, as well as how to take directives from authority figures or conform to rules that they might disagree with.


7. Time management

Teens who have jobs are given the opportunity to practice balancing their time between work, school, hobbies, friends, and family. This experience teaches teens time management skills and how to prioritize their responsibilities. These skills come very handy in all aspects of life from that point on.


Tips for parents

While your teen may not like the idea of having to work for things he's used to getting for free and without much effort, it’s very likely that he'll end up thanking you for it in the long run. Don't let your child miss the opportunity to be educated about the job market. Do so by encouraging your teen to find a job and pay some of their expenses. Make sure to do this gradually and start as early as possible. I recommend diversifying teens' job experience by letting them taste the flavors of a variety of jobs. However, make sure to help your teen realize what skills and talents he has, so he can discover opportunities that suit him better. If your teen struggles to get hired for a job in a specific domain of interest, encourage him to take a volunteer job as a way to gain valuable experience, which will eventually provide him access to a paid job in that same field.


Finally, since working long hours is associated with lower educational attainment and having a smaller work load is linked to a higher academic performance, I personally recommend that teen engage in jobs that require less of their time and for which they're being well compensated. By doing so teen don't have to compromise their school work or sleep. Tutoring and babysitting are examples of such jobs. Teens who tutor usually are well compensated and work less than 10 hrs a week, which leaves them much free time to focus on their school work and social life. Tutoring has another important advantage in the academic realm as via teaching teens become better versed in the area in which they tutor. Babysitting is another great job for students as it often allows them to study while at work when their little clients are sleeping.


Remember, nothing worth having comes easy and all roads that lead to success have to pass through HARD WORK Boulevard. This is the way life works, so follow the path and success will follow:-)