The Benefits of Working Part-time as a Teenager
Updated: Jul 30
Growing up it was common for kids in our community to have a part-time job in high school. We lived in a big city and there were endless opportunities for teenagers just a short walk or bike ride from our homes.
We typically worked for minimum wage at local retail shops, pharmacies and ice cream parlors. Having your drivers license was a bonus, and we had quite a few friends delivering pizza on the weekend. Some of us got an earlier start as neighborhood babysitters, setting up lemonade stands or running the community garage sale.
The benefits of having a part-time job during your adolescent years are well documented. And as I dug into the research, you see a lot of articles referencing life skills you would expect kids to learn from their first job. Skills like responsibility, time management, organization and how to manage money. A part-time job can also be a self esteem booster and give kids a sense of independence.
But the more I reflected on the part-time jobs I had in high school, the more I could feel myself grimacing at the computer as I typed. And then it dawned on me. Those part-time jobs that were giving me all these great life skills, also taught me something that I carry with me today - motivation.
Let me be clear. It wasn’t the kind of motivation to work harder at the local t-shirt shop that employed me. Instead it was motivation to graduate from high school and choose a path that would ensure I never had to fold another t-shirt ever again.
I have nothing against t-shirt shops. Nothing again t-shirt shop owners or employees. But anyone that has ever worked in the clothing industry has to admit the folding, refolding and rearranging of clothes (or just t-shirts for me) was definitely not the fondest memory of my part-time job in high school.
Getting Started in Your Community
Fast forward to 2021, and I now have four children and am married to another entrepreneur. Our kids are getting entrepreneurship 101 on a daily basis (whether they like it or not!). We’ve always encouraged our kids to find ways to earn some extra money. We don’t give much direction on how they choose to do it (unless they ask for it) because I’m most curious to see what they find interesting.
The odd jobs they worked when they were little ranged from the traditional lemonade stand to taking care of pets for the neighbors, and lots of babysitting (some were better at it than others).
High school jobs seem to be a bit trickier to manage and research shows today’s teenagers are working less than the adolescents of our generation. Time seems to be the biggest culprit. Homework loads have increased leaving few hours for part-time jobs during the week. Clubs, sports and other activities eat up what little free time is left.
But jobs are evolving and you might be surprised at how flexible some can be. We’ve met teens working independently as graphic designers, photographers and creative writers. Others are helping local businesses manage their social media accounts. And companies like DoorDash are quickly becoming a favorite for young adults.
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As we look to the future we see a lot of jobs being eliminated by automation, but many new jobs are also being created. The likelihood of our kids working several different jobs within several different industries over their lifetime is a reality.
Working a part-time job as an adolescent (or younger) can have great benefits to the development of our kids. Beyond the basics of a good work ethic, understanding what motivates you (no more t-shirts!) is just as important as discovering what you enjoy.
Do you think teens should make work a priority in high school? Ten years ago DoorDash didn't exist and today they boast over one million drivers. What opportunities will exist for teens ten years from now?
About the Author
Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.