Last Updated on January 9, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin
A rite of passage that most people experience at some point is getting a job. Why wait until adulthood to work? If possible, teenagers should get a job because of the many social skills and life skills they can learn before they launch out on their own.
Many parents are not sure if their child should get a job. Maybe the family finances can afford the teen to not work. Maybe the teenager is busy with sports or volunteer work. Or maybe the son or daughter is content with how their life is and doesn’t want a job.
Traditionally the reason to get a job is to earn money. And while that is probably still true, as a mom of nine children (4 teens and 3 young adults), I have found that the benefits of a teenager getting a job are so much more than that.
I remember when our second child turned 16. Homeschooled and struggling with motivation and a lack of focus, it was a challenge to get her to do anything she didn’t “feel” like doing. We would have regular arguments about school work and helping around the house.
When I suggested that she get a job, she would say,” I don’t want a job. I don’t need a lot of money. I’m content with how things are now.” And really she was contentish. She rarely spent money. The few extras usually came from birthdays, Christmas or outings with grandma. I found myself asking…is it wrong that she is content?
I’ve always encouraged contentment as somewhat the opposite of jealousy. We need to be content at some level but I realized here that contentment could be a code word for a lot of other things….fear, passiveness, or laziness came to mind.
So in that sense, “contentment” could hold someone back from doing something new or beneficial. In the end, I gave her a choice….go to school or get a job. So my daughter followed in her brother’s footsteps and begrudgingly got a job at the local McDonalds.
Now four years later in 2024, I have 4 children working at McDonalds. My oldest son recently moved on to another job after working there for the better part of four years.
Here are some of the benefits I have seen from teens having jobs.
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1. They earn an income.
In our house, when they get a job, we stop paying for clothes, shoes and other small extras. A job is also the ticket to a phone because they can afford to pay their own monthly phone bill.
In addition, having an income can be a huge motivator because they now have money for potential opportunities that come along. Instead of being completely dependent on mom and dad, they can start to consider other options that don’t depend on parents footing the bill.
Our kids have used that extra income to take school trips, buy trendy clothes and gadgets and buy gifts for others on top of the expenses related to increased responsibilities.
2. They appreciate money more.
Prior to working, a gift of $20 or $50 had little context. But now, it translates. “Someone worked for this money and they gave it to me” They are more appreciative because they understand.
If you have a teen who is acting entitled, then a job can be really helpful. It’s hard to appreciate what you have been given until you have a better understanding of what it took to buy that gift.
Sometimes parents or other adults get frustrated with teens who don’t want to work. But if you step back and look at the bigger picture, you may see that their life has never needed them to work. It’s logical that they don’t work because EVERYTHING is given to them.
If your teen resists getting a job, it may be a good idea to look at their situation and see where they are being given too much. If some of those perks are removed, natural motivation will kick in as they need to earn money to have nice things.
3. They learn the value of doing a job right.
They learn this from 2 different parts of the job.
First, when they encounter the frustration of a boss or customers when something is not right, they become more attentive. Every one of my kids who has had a job has had the unpleasant experience of dealing with angry customers or frustrated bosses. In that moment, they can choose to get angry themselves or they can choose to learn and do better next time.
The second place they learn is from the other employees. Entry-level jobs are full of people who have never been taught to do basic chores. So it’s no surprise that there are many stories of co-workers who don’t know how to handle basic tasks. When their lack of skill or attentiveness makes your child’s job harder, it can be a reverse lesson.
4. A job reinforces positive values and skills taught at home.
If your family values hard work, honesty, respecting authority, and kindness toward others, your child who goes into the workplace will stand out immediately as a quality employee. Simple values go a long way in relationships with fellow employees, customers, and bosses.
Your kids will also learn to value the simple skills you taught them at home when they go into a work environment with others who have never worked before.
One of my favorite stories from my daughter working came after she had been working a few months. She came home one day and said, “Mom, you will never believe what happened today. A new employee was working and our manager asked them to sweep the floor. This new girl had no idea how to sweep! I had to teach her. I remember when you taught me to sweep the floor when I was 8.”
This was so basic. But the basic things we had tried to teach our kids were reinforced over and over again as they learned that these simple skills that we drilled at home were valued in the work environment.
5. It will help them get an idea of the kinds of work they may want to do in the future.
My oldest son started a small lawn care business at age 14. He quickly realized that while he liked the income, he hated mowing lawns… for a lot of reasons. He didn’t like the blazing sun, the isolation of mowing for hours without talking to people, and the inconsistent schedule caused by rainy spring days that turned yards into swamps. These realizations were valuable and helped him choose his next job a little better.
On the flip side, my friend’s son started a lawn care business as a teenager and LOVED it. After high school, he opted out of college to grow and expand his lawn mowing into a full scale lawn care business.
The process of working jobs in high school can help teens figure out what types of environments they like, the type of work they are good at and also the things they can’t stand in a job. ALL of that is valuable!
6. Jobs develop soft skills in teens.
Most job descriptions have concrete skills or tasks associated that somewhat must have or be able to quickly learn. But in order to be successful, there are tons of other soft skills that set people apart.
Soft skills that teens can learn on the job include:
- navigating conflict
- speaking clearly,
- problem-solving skills,
- customer service social skills
Jobs are a great place to learn and practice these in a more adult way. After all, at home and school, teens are still minors… children, but out in the workforce, the expectations are elevated and they are treated like adults.
Recently my 14 year old son started working at McDonalds. He attends a private school and works one day on the weekend. After working for about two weeks, he observed, “I am treated more like an adult at work than I am at school.” I thought that was interesting that he would notice the difference in expectations so quickly.
In school, parents and teachers will continue to push a student along. School attendance (or compliance) is required. But employers won’t put up with an employee that doesn’t want to work...they just let them go. That responsibility sits on teens shoulders and helps them make different decisions.
7. The work environment brings teens into contact with people who are “different.”
When our children are small, we often protect that circle of influence. But as they grow, they need to learn to navigate working with people who are different.
They may look different, smell different (flipping burgers + sweat… oh my), believe different things, etc. Unlike family, where we are mostly the same and school where it is easy to isolate into cliques, work is a place where you must learn to work with people who are different.
Even more important that that, working with people in repetitive work environments is a great way to learn to talk to people who are different. There isn’t time for deep or controversial topics most of the time, but there is enough time to learn about other people.
8. Some jobs offer teens college money.
Many chain companies have college scholarship money for their employees. At McDonald’s for example, students who work 90 days prior to classes starting for 15 hours a week qualify for $2500.00 a year in college tuition assistance. They can get this all 4 years of college. Two of our sons attend a state university where tuition is pretty low, so this made a big dent in his cost for the year.
9. Getting a Job Let’s Teens Gradually Step Into Adulthood
One of our goals as parents has been to gradually give our kids the responsibility and benefits of adulthood instead of letting them bear the weight of that at once. Earning money is motivating when you have bills to pay.
As a young adult, I had no idea how much things cost. I got married right out of college at age 20 and had never paid for any of my own expenses. So when it came time to pay for things, I had no idea how to plan. By letting teens take on their expenses gradually, it can help prepare them for the next season of life gradually.
During the teen years, they can gradually begin to pay for:
- Their clothing
- Their cell phone and bill
- Gas for the Car
- Car Insurance
- Class trips
- Social outings
- And many other possible expenses
10. Teenagers Getting Jobs Can Ease The Family Finances
As I write this in 2023, many families are experiencing tighter finances with inflation across the board. When teenagers get jobs, it can allow them to still experience the highlights of being a teenager without it being curbed by family finances.
In our family with 9 children, our kids having jobs has meant they could pay for many interesting things that would have been impossible for us multiplied times 9 kids. It’s actually fun to see what they choose to spend their money on that they have saved up. Some like video games and others prefer going on big trips. Some have bought the fancy tennis shoes and others have paid for gifts for friends.
Teens getting jobs doesn’t mean they need to pay the water and gas bill but it might mean there is more money in the family budget because they are paying for their own expenses.
Here are the action steps for getting a job as a teen!
Should ALL Teenagers Get Jobs?
I’m not an expert, but I currently have 5 teenagers and 3 young adults. I believe that with very few exceptions, having a part-time job can benefit most teenagers. A job doesn’t have to be working for a company to provide many of the confidence boosting benefits of employment. There are many many ways teens can earn money that don’t require a consistent schedule.
Great Jobs For Teens
- Fast Food Restaurant
- Lawnmowing & landscaping jobs
- LIfeguarding at the pool
- Coffee shops or local diners (establishments that serve alcohol will often restrict hiring to age 18 and up)
- Retail locations
- Entertainment Venues
- Summer Camps
These are just a few of the many benefits of teens getting a job.
Despite the inconvenience of teen work schedules in our family schedule, we have found that our kids working has far outweighed those minor discomforts. When our unmotivated 16-year-old started at Mcdonald’s, it was not something she really wanted. She was directionless, unmotivated, disrespectful, and very self-focused.
Fast forward 4 years later, she has been promoted multiple times and is now a manager, works full-time hours, has keys to the restaurant and has money in the bank.
Working a job was a huge contributor in helping shift directions.
12 Jobs for Introverts or Teens With Social Anxiety
Many teens struggle with social anxiety. Whether they simply prefer quieter activities or are truly anxious, there are many jobs that are more suited to people who prefer less interaction with the public. However, before you decide to go for a job with less people, it is a good idea to ask yourself if you like being socially anxious…or whether you want to learn how to be around more people.
As someone who struggled socially for the first 30 years of my life, I want to invite you to stretch yourself and always be willing to try new things even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Jobs can be one of the best places to OVERCOME social anxiety. So my list below does have the quieter jobs, but I also list the social skills you can learn in each place. Of course there are more…I’m just highlighting a few.
- Landscaping or Lawn Mowing – customer service, financial management, problem solving
- Fast Food Restaurant – social skills (many automated conversations), conflict-resolution, working on a team
- Cleaning – attention to detail, customer service, caring about others
- Food Prep – attention to detail, working on a team, caring about others
- Hostess / Waitress – curiosity, positive attitude, attention to detail
- Tutor – caring about others, social skills, positive attitude,
- Library assistant – attention to detail, customer service
- Retail – social skills (many automated conversations), attention to detail, customer service, conflict resolution
- Babysitting (or childcare worker in daycare) – caring about others, working on a team, conflict resolution (kids & parents!), positive attitude
- Warehouse – attention to detail, working on a team
- Office Staff – attention to detail, customer service, phone skills
- Summer Camp – opportunity to teach, practice conflict resolution, encourage others who struggle socially
How to find jobs for teens and youth near me?
Most jobs for teens and youth are not advertised specifically that way. If a teen is looking for a job nearby, here are some tips:
- Talk to family and friends about wanting a job. People will start looking for you and send you leads.
- Many communities have local Facebook groups. Post in those groups what type of work your teen is looking for. Of course, use your judgement about opportunities post…but often times community groups show you who else that person knows that you know as well which can help build trust.
- Look for “Apply Here” signs in the windows of local businesses. Many small “mom & pop” businesses still have paper applications, so you will need to go inside to apply.
- Chain restaurants and retail will have their hiring information online. Be sure to make sure you meet their minimum age requirement. If you apply online, be prepared to follow up with a phone call to the store within a few days if you don’t hear back.
How Can Teens Balance Work, School and a Social Life?
One of the common arguments against teens working is that “School is their Job.” In other words, parents want their teens to focus on getting good grades. That is a good goal. However, work doesn’t mean they will do poorly in school.
Allowing teens to work during the school year might just mean working 4-8 hours on the weekend with more scheduled hours on winter break and during the summer. Jobs that hire teens often offer shorter shift options and more flexible scheduling.
My teens will schedule off if there is a family activity on the calendar or something they don’t want to miss. But by having a job year round, they don’t have to “go find a job” over Christmas break or during the summer. They already have one.
By letting teens work while they are in school, we can let them practice balancing multiple responsibilities. As adults, we are always juggling more than one thing…work, family, friends etc. We can’t do all of the things all the time.
Letting our teens have a chance to practice that while they are at home is the perfect time because they don’t need the money to pay the bills. They can cut their hours or change their schedule as they try to balance. But it lets them feel the weight of having multiple responsibilities.
My teens start working at 14 to practice this juggle. And by the time they are in college, they have figured out a balance that works for them. My sons that are in college work and go to school. One works full time for an architecture company and is finishing his Senior year of college.
The other works about 15 hours a week and is studying Corrosion Engineering. They both have a social life outside of school and work and know how to take breaks if things feel overwhelming.
A Job Can Be the BEST Next Extracurricular for Responsible Teens
If you have a teen that is ready for something more, rather than adding another extracurricular, consider a job as that “next thing.” The benefits in personal development are something money can’t buy and experiences rarely give at such a young age.
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Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!