Education

Part-time jobs hold great benefits for teenagers

Marathon Middle/High School students at the Middle Keys Publix in May as part of the Kids and the Power of Work program. The purpose was to get behind the scenes to experience possible jobs and the skills necessary to do them.
Marathon Middle/High School students at the Middle Keys Publix in May as part of the Kids and the Power of Work program. The purpose was to get behind the scenes to experience possible jobs and the skills necessary to do them. Miami Herald File

First jobs are a rite of passage, and a natural way for teens to express their independence. But how do you know your child is ready to take on the responsibilities inherent in earning their own money at a part-time job?

The benefits are many. Employment helps keep kids engaged and out of trouble. It fosters independence, boosts confidence and builds résumés. And experts say that working while in high school is a strong predictor of securing work as an adult.

Clear expectations

Talk to your teen about what holding down a part-time job will mean for them in the everyday.

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K. Lori Hanson, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and director of research and evaluation at The Children’s Trust. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Can they handle the added responsibility of work and still successfully juggle school, household chores and their social life? Will transportation to and from the job be an added stressor? Discuss too, what a potential employer’s expectations of them will be, such as arriving on time, dressing appropriately, speaking clearly and respectfully, turning off all personal electronics, following through with tasks and directions, and being notified immediately whenever your child will be late or must call in sick. Are they sure they’ll be able to meet those expectations, every single workday?

Equally important is letting your child know that they have the right to feel safe and advocate for themselves on the job. If an employer asks them to stay especially late, come in earlier or do something they’re not trained to do they need to know how to respond, and that it’s okay to say no.

Found experience

Teens who volunteer or participate in internships are attractive candidates for work, and both are great ways to gain real-world experience. Businesses that welcome volunteers include museums, libraries, nonprofits, churches and synagogues. Involvement in school clubs, especially in leadership roles, and required community service can help teens develop such marketable skills as time management, networking and negotiation, to name just a few.

When searching for internships, encourage your teen to dream big and look for work they may consider pursuing as a career. The Summer Youth Internship Program (getmyinterns.org) — founded last year by the county, Miami-Dade Public Schools, the Foundation for New Education Initiatives and The Children’s Trust — has helped thousands of Miami-area teens find paid employment across a wide range of industries. Not all internships are salaried, however, instead offering school credit or community service hours on top of the invaluable experience they provide.

Getting started

For younger teens, babysitting and dog walking for neighbors or family is a good way to ease into the workforce. Youth as young as 14 can apply for clerk positions at supermarkets bagging groceries, helping customers load up their cars, retrieving carts from the parking lot and doing light cleaning. Older teens can secure restaurant or retail positions; visit nearby commercial centers or strip malls with your child to look for Help Wanted signs. And because the pool of available jobs for teens can be shallow, urge your child to make themselves stand out by sharpening skills relevant to their preferred job. A reliable babysitter, for example, looks even better when they’re certified in infant CPR and first aid.

Has your child attended an after-school program or summer camp? Nudge them into networking mode by suggesting they contact their old counselors to ask if they’re hiring.

When looking for jobs, your child should be prepared to fill out extensive application materials. Teens should create a résumé, listing skills and dates of previous volunteer and/or internship experiences. They must also be ready to provide the contact names and numbers of references.

Pennywise, pound smart

Earning a salary from part-time work is an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about fiscal and financial health. Start a conversation with your child about the amount of savings they have, how much they are putting away for college and what they are spending on recreational activities. Help your teen develop awareness of their own economic behaviors, choices and goals, regardless of how much money they have.

Taking on some of the financial responsibility of their day-to-day expenses, such as gas, food and clothing, teaches teens to appreciate the value of a dollar, and encourages them to budget and plan for longer-term purchases.

K. Lori Hanson, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and director of research and evaluation at The Children’s Trust, has more than 20 years’ experience assessing critical data and community research regarding the needs of children and families. For more information, visit thechildrenstrust.org.

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