Working as a teenager: The benefits outweigh the costs


The Catalyst / Niharika Nair

Junior Kylie Neuman finishes her shift at Boba Guys, San Carlos where she works after school.

According to The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, about 30% of eligible high school students in America work at some point during the school year. These teens all work for different reasons: to help their families pay the bills, save up for college, gain experience for a future career or just have extra cash for personal spending. No matter the reason, it can be difficult for anyone to balance work and academics.

Being employed while keeping up with a busy academic schedule is not for everyone, but may provide one with skills that could prove helpful in the future. Time management is beneficial to learn early on, and the responsibilities of a job can easily promote this habit. Prioritizing and delegating time to tasks is only understood when one must juggle multiple time commitments. If they never had to worry about efficiency, they might not be prepared when it really matters. For example, if someone has plenty of time on their hands, they might be more prone to procrastination. However, if they are on more of a tight schedule, they would be forced to get things done quicker and more productively.

Some people do not handle stress very well and additional work-related responsibilities might only aggravate this anxiety. Nonetheless, having a part-time job in high school can ease one into the undertakings that come with being employed. Full-time employment as an adult is a sobering reality, so working a couple of days a week while being in school can mimic the ebb and flow of “adult life.”

Another advantage of being employed early in life is the connections one can make with peers and management. By developing strong connections with co-workers and superiors, one can find mentors, references and even good friends. Being involved in the network of a business community can provide a foundation for future success.

Additionally, if one’s first job is one that is in a field that interests them, it could lay the groundwork as experience for a prospective career. If one was interested in child education, they might consider working at a tutoring center or a summer camp. By exploring different job and career opportunities, they can also determine professional directions that they are uninterested in. For instance, someone may decide they do not want to go into child education after a summer of handling children as a camp counselor. Without the experience early on, it might be hard to backtrack if one decides they dislike that profession.

Lastly, starting a job young in California means that students can start saving money as early as 14. Establishing a 401k or Roth IRA when they are in high school can lead to significant financial security when they retire. For many working teens, retirement is the last thing on their minds, but with the responsibility of earning money, comes the responsibility of what to do with it. This is yet another important lesson of being employed young. When teens still live with their parents, they can get help with tax questions, investments and general money advice. If one were to get their first job in college, they might be on their own when it comes to these questions.

Worries regarding a job affecting academic performance can be soothed by volunteering somewhere on a trial, non-committal basis and see if the balance is manageable. Programs like the SPCA or Second Harvest Food Bank are great options for this kind of “test run” and they have very flexible hours.