Your teenager faces more challenges and more opportunities than you faced when you were her age. The information age is expanding gaps between haves and have-nots because the skills required to thrive in today's economy are harder to obtain than the skills required a generation ago. There is little to suggest this pattern will change.
One of the things you can do to help your teen succeed as an adult is to help her find a job where she can learn skills that will be helpful in the future. Almost any job is helpful to teach a teen to show up to work on time, to take direction from a supervisor and otherwise be responsible. If you can find a position that will also expose your teen to computers or other technology, you can give her an even bigger boost.
Here are some ideas to help you help your teens to find the perfect job to prepare them for the future:
Start with looking for positions at the nearest university. Often times, labs on campus need low wage, part-time help from bright students who want exposure to the sciences. While washing beakers in a lab may not seem so different from washing dishes in a restaurant, the truth is that the exposure to vocabulary and people with advanced degrees will make this a vastly different and better experience.
Encourage your teen to talk to the guidance counselor at school. She may have connections to local employers looking for ambitious teens to do a variety of skilled jobs that might build on skills learned in school.
You and your spouse know countless people. Don't be afraid to put the word out that your teen is looking for meaningful, part-time employment. You never know who may step up. For instance, delivering packages in the afternoons for a law firm may seem trivial, but the relationships built in such a position could be life changing. How else - beyond clichéd television programs - will your teen get real world exposure to what goes on in a law office.
If your teen has a particular field in mind, say architecture, you can work with her to develop a plan for approaching all the firms in town. She'll want to start with a professional looking resume, describing everything she's done in school to prepare her for being an architect (not that she'll be hired as an architect or even for drafting). Then, using a combination of mail, email and phone calls, launch a campaign to get her a part-time job doing something - anything in the field. She'll never learn as much about actually working as an architect any other way.
By using one or more of these four strategies, you can help your teen find a job that will provide meaningful preparation for life. Even if she later changes her mind about her career path, her exposure to high potential careers in high school can have a lasting impact on her.