When you’re a teenager, many times the process of applying for a job, being interviewed, and being evaluated and hired goes something like this: “Hey, the restaurant I’m working at needs some help and you can start right away.”
And, before you know it, you have a job.
There are a lot of good reasons why a job is a great experience, but there are also some potential problems.
With the summer job season right around the corner, you and your parents should take some time to discuss the process and establish some guidelines.
The advantages and disadvantages were all carefully reviewed in a government study a few years ago:
“Some educators complain that working teens put in too many hours on their jobs; they may come to school tired, have little time to see their teachers after school for special help, spend time with their family and friends or participate in extracurricular activities,” the report said. It notes that some psychologists warn employment may cut short exploration and “adolescent moratorium,” a “stage of life free from adult-like pursuits, stressors, and responsibilities.” Others worry about drug or alcohol abuse or inappropriate relations in an unsupervised setting.
The report concluded, however, that with proper care, “the work experience can promote the healthy development of young people, especially when it is moderate in intensity and steady in duration and does not interfere with other important elements in a teen’s life.”
Here are some important considerations:
Check it out. No matter how great the job sounds or how much it pays, or how much parents would like you doing something besides staring into one screen or another, you and your parents should get to know the employer. Find out what the boss is like, get a feel for what is involved in the job and talk to kids who work there or their parents. You can even look at online reviews but take them with a grain of salt.
Don’t keep silent. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about anything that makes you uncomfortable.
Be resilient but know when to leave. Any job can be difficult, unpleasant, boring or confusing so don’t give up too easily. If, however, you have legitimate concerns about how you are treated or what the job entails, don’t feel you have to stick it out. There is probably another job somewhere else – and you don’t have to let your next employer know every detail.
Know the rules. There are some very specific state and federal laws about wages and tips, the types of jobs you can hold at various ages, and what you can be asked to do.
There is a lot of good information about those rules and youth employment at the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for youth employment as well as on state employment websites. A related site has more information, a job search engine and the story behind Jimmy Fallon’s first job!
[Looking for more tips from the TeenLife Experts? Here's how to balance school and a part time job!]