Our oldest son is a senior in high school. Recently, we were discussing with him how he needed to start looking for a job. His response was, "Why do I need a job?" We were a bit floored by this attitude. In his mind, he had all he needed. He was doing well in school, and he earned money doing extra chores around the house. Why, indeed, would he need a job?

Someday, he will leave our home. First, for college then to begin his own life. At some point, our children need to leave the nest. Hopefully, we, as parents, have given them the skills they need to be independent, responsible adults. A part-time job or a summer job helps teens learn the skills of work, money management and personal responsibility.


Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies said, "There is only one way you can learn how to work- you've got to work." (www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/24/number-of-high-school-students-with-jobs-hits-20-year-low) It is not something you learn in a classroom. It takes hands-on experience. Mr. Sum also said, "In the long run the trend [of not working during teen years] could produce more and more young adults who lack basic skills, such as how to interact with a customer, gained while working early in life."

Getting a job helps teens gain experience interacting with customers, completing a task well, and simply putting in hours on the job. When our oldest got her first job as a hostess for a restaurant, she gained several skills through this job. Shy by nature, she learned to be outgoing as she was required to greet each guest as they arrived. She also learned to be organized as she had to keep track of where she sat each party so as not to overburden one waiter over another. Working also taught her if she wanted more money she had to work more hours. All of these skills proved valuable in her pursuit of other employment.

Money Management

One of the biggest reasons we want our son to get a job is money. He needs to be earning money for his college education and his own spending. With a job, teens learn the value of money. They learn how much something costs in relation to how much time and effort it took to earn the money to pay for it.

Having personal income helps a teen to learn the importance of budgeting. It is important to sit down with our children and discuss needs versus wants, short- term and long-term savings, and how to create their own budget. This should start at a young age, but is a must once they become teenagers making their own money. Without a budget, a teen will learn quickly how money can disappear without him even realizing it.

Once a teen has a job, it is important to hand over the responsibility for some of her expenses. This could be gas and insurance for the car, clothing, entertainment, gifts for others, etc. The important thing is for her to have ownership over herself and her money.

Personal Responsibility

Having a job can help a teen learn personal responsibility in the areas of accountability and time management. If you want to stay employed and earning a paycheck you need to demonstrate your ability in these areas.

A job teaches a teen to be accountable for his actions. If you are asked to complete a task, such as cleaning the grill, and that job is not done acceptably or not done at all, chances are you will not last long at that job. You are responsible to be where you say you will be and do each task you are asked to complete.

As an employee, one needs to be on-time consistently. One, you are missing out on earning potential. Two, being late could lead to losing your job. Being punctual demonstrates your maturity and personal responsibility. This can lead to more trust, more difficult work and a higher position and pay.

Another area of time management learned from having a job is balancing all your responsibilities and commitments. Balancing your schedule for work, school, home and leisure is an important life skill. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes him a poor boy. Keeping it all in balance makes Jack a well-rounded boy.

So why does a teen need a job? She needs to learn the value of work, the importance of managing money and personal responsibility. All of these are needed skills for a lifetime of success. As economist Ishwar Khatiwada at Northeastern University said, "the more you work today, the more you'll be working tomorrow." (www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/05/30/the-teen-jobs-problem-its-worse-tahn-it-looks)

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