Having a part-time job can be a very positive experience for teens. For the first time in their lives, they learn the pride in earning a paycheck and enjoy some of the freedoms that come with that. They gain life skill experiences with W-2 and 1040EZ forms, payroll deductions, automatic deposits, as well as what it feels like when they see their bank account grow if they’re careful, or watch it decline if they’re not.
Today, colleges care less about perfect GPAs and more about the well-roundedness of the applicant, as evidenced by extracurricular activities such as sports, volunteer work, and part-time employment. They see part-time jobs as an indicator of a student’s reliability, maturity and independence. The ability to hold a part-time job and maintain a high GPA in high school is a good predictor of success as a college student.
That being said, there are some potential pitfalls for you to help your teen avoid:
- Having their supervisor give them a work schedule that conflicts with the days and times they said they were available on their application.
Keep in mind that the supervisors in many of these jobs (such as fast food or grocery chains) are not much older than your teen and often don’t possess strong management skills. No 16-18 year old wants to start off a new job by having to confront their boss about their work schedule. The best thing you can do as a parent is help steer them to local businesses that appear to be well managed and have happy employees. If scheduling problems still occur, coach your teen on how to raise the issue with their boss, but don’t go in and talk to the supervisor yourself! Learning to negotiate for themselves in a respectful manner is a great life skill.
- Seeing a significant decline in their grades, or loss of interest in school, after taking a part-time job.
Before your teen starts a new job I recommend that you clarify that school comes first. For example, you could decide on a grade level they need to maintain in order to keep the job, and be seriously ready to make that tough decision if it comes to it. Today most high schools have all the assignments and grades posted on each teacher’s website, so it’s easy for parents to monitor their grades. If your teen is college bound, a good way to make them see this job as a stepping stone to college (and not an alternative to it) is to have them put a certain percentage of each paycheck into their own college fund. Being able to see that money grow and know they helped the family by contributing to their education is a great self-esteem builder!
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