When I was in Grade 8, I worked at my first job - a summer gig as an entry-level mailroom clerk for an office building.
My summer days were spent in the “dungeon” sorting mail, delivering it, making photocopies, sending faxes, and stamping, enveloping and delivering letters and packages to the post office on behalf of the business.
The following summer, I answered phones and took pizza orders for a fast food chain. I continued to work there throughout the next few years of high school (on evenings and weekends), taking orders and making pizzas for minimum wage.
For my parents, it wasn’t about earning my own keep. Having a job was about learning important life skills, like arriving for work on time, learning how to work with (and for) others, coping with criticism and how to take initiative. I took public transit to and from work, and learned how to manage my own finances - all before I graduated from high school.
When my children reach a similar age, I’m hoping they’ll do the same. I want them to get a job - a real, unglamorous gig where they earn money and mingle with people outside of their inner circle, while getting their hands dirty and sharpening their skills.
Structuring the summer months can be tricky for parents of teens. Torn between letting their kids free-range it - taking a break from academics to enjoy a summer full of free time, and using the time to top up skills for the school year to come - taking extra classes or adding to their extracurricular agenda, parents struggle to help their children choose the right path.
Encouraging teens to take on summer jobs will not only prepare them for the future, but it will build character and teach them important skills that they’ll need for their post-high-school days.
A study conducted by the UBC Sauder School of Business determined that teens who worked in summer jobs earned more in their adult careers. According to the study, “Seidel and his co-authors found teens in part-time jobs progress to better-suited careers since the early exposure to work helps them hone their preferences. They enhance their soft skills, acquire better references and learn how to job-hunt more successfully – establishing wider career networks.”
For the study, researchers used data from the Statistics Canada Youth in Transition Survey, which represented 246,661 15-year-old Canadian teenagers, looking at their work history over a 10-year period beginning at age 15 and ending at 25 in 2009.
Having a summer job won’t prevent kids from having fun during the school break. They’ll still be able to socialize and set themselves up for success when they return to school. But the skills that they will learn from working will take them far beyond the next term of school. That work experience will help them get into college, and having something on their resumes when they graduate will put them ahead of other candidates when they apply for jobs.
Instead of signing your teens up for summer camps, consider encouraging them to take on summer jobs. They’ll enjoy the independence (and the extra cash flow), and the skills learned will take them far beyond the lessons learned in the classroom.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.