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The Great American Summer Job

By Sarah Fallaw on May 24th, 2017 in Current Events, Lessons Learned, Mentor's Corner, Psychology and Careers

Waiting tables, mowing lawns, babysitting, retail sales, camp staff, stockroom: how many of these summer jobs did you have in high school and college? What about the teens you know – are they working this summer? When I saw the headline that retail jobs that once filled the time of teenagers looking to make money during the summer are slowly dying, I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of summer employment. There are fewer and fewer teens working during the summers. Part of the reason is economic: the percentage of teens working tends to decline during and after a recession, and often youth employment is hit quite hard and tends not to rebound quickly. In some other cases, perhaps it is the lack of need for spending money or the desire to not be “stressed” during the summer, perhaps driven by parents instead of teens themselves.

Besides the obvious financial benefits, what else are teens missing out on by not working in the summer?

Despite some research to the contrary, many of the recent studies of adolescent employment demonstrate relationships between teens working and outcomes such as less time watching TV, decreased teen violence, increase in school attendance the following year, and career identity.  But context, hours, and levels of supervision appear to impact these relationships. In other words, long periods of stressful work in relatively unsupervised settings can have negative effects.

One of the most comprehensive studies of teen work was based on data from the Youth Development Study, out of the University of Minnesota. This study examined the types of work settings, the hours worked, and the consistency of work, and concluded that there is most certainly not one size fits all when it comes to working in high school. The study itself examined work in general, versus summer work specifically, but many of the conclusions still apply.

Perhaps it is the parents’ fault: some will decide that they don’t want their kids to have to work their summers away, as if the stress of having to babysit will upset their academic studies in the next school year. While working during the summer isn’t as carefree as laying out by the pool or playing video games, consider this from researchers in this field:

We conclude that moderate stressors at work during adolescence may teach teens valuable lessons…

For some fortunate teens (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective), there is little reason to work because parents provide every last penny for every consumption desire. However, consider the potential non-financial benefits of summer work:

….Much school and major “shopping” as well as occupational “floundering,” could possibly be avoided if young people’s work values were sufficiently formed to provide a basis for effective educational and career decision making. Some combination of paid jobs, internships, and volunteer jobs might encourage optimal career exploration and long-term benefits.

The summary of that statement is that summer jobs allow you to explore careers, experience real-life working environments, and become familiar with responsibility.

Finding a summer job is a trick, but there are a variety of options for summer employment. Likewise, teens today have the benefit of technology to help them find and/or create their own business opportunities for the summer. The benefit of the experience may be worth a little extra effort.

6 responses to “The Great American Summer Job”

  1. David Bodnet says:

    How true this is! Brings back good memories of cutting lawns, shoveling snow, and raking leaves for many of my neighbors. Those neighborhood jobs prepared me for high school part time jobs.
    A strong work ethic at a formative age will carry you a long way on the road of life!

  2. Jerry K. says:

    I had several part-time jobs starting with a paper route when I was 10. Did some lawn mowing, was “volunteered” by my parents to help set up events at school/church. At 15 started working in restaurants, banquet halls. Followed by fast food work, television delivery, grocery store, electrician helper, in-ground lawn sprinkler installer, etc. I actually had less take home pay in my first full tme job out of college than I was making in my two part time jobs I was working before the full time gig. My two sons have followed with part time jobs through high school and college. Also they did hospital volunteering and internships.

    Part time work experience is invaluable for teens. I interview new college grads for entry level and internship positions. I see how unprepared young people are in an interview situation at age 20 when they never had any work experience earlier in life.

  3. John G says:

    Yes, I worked. I had a small laundry business. Then I was a dishwasher in a hospital and later, for four years of college, a library employee there.

    All of our children worked. Some of it was volunteer; while some was paid. We home schooled for a while so the kids had times for a great education and work. Our daughter was given a horse. We could not afford that. So, I told her she could keep the horse if she paid for it. She got a job mucking corrals at the stables.

    Today, all of our children work hard, are successful and respected in their careers.

  4. Millennial says:

    I am a Millennial born in 1984 and I worked every summer growing up – pizza shop, ice cream parlor, golf course, painting houses, laying bricks and landscaping. I think I am better off for it now professionally in my 30’s. I’ve developed a strong work ethic because of it. I wish more teens now would work. More specifically I wish parents forced their kids to work, at least some.

  5. EL says:

    Since my Sophomore year in HS, I had a summer job every year. It helped me gain independence and responsibility to stick to a work schedule. I think most teens should have a job to help them get a leg up with all those college costs.

  6. Joakim says:

    I started to collecting pine cones when I was 8-9 years old together with my grandfather we then sold it to a nursery, one of my best memory had with him. When I was 13 I started to work in my fathers bakery, at 15 I did night shifts.

    My kids this summer (they are 5 and 4)wanted to do a lemonade stand, I told that we can do that but I was not sure how many costumers will come by our house etc. but they told me -we will come to the costumers… There plan (not mine) was to make a lemonade stand on weels. So we made one. They pull the wagon down the street to Main Street about 2 mile return ( if I have to pull it they pay me 25 cent / block) they making 25-30$ a trip.. (More then I make) they saving up for a weekend at the waterpark..

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