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When your teen finally lands her first job, it’s a big moment. Even if she’s gotten an allowance in the past, having someone else besides the people who love her recognize her potential is a huge vote of confidence. But beyond the extra spending money, your girl can gain so much from this experience.
Confidence: There’s nothing like hearing those magic words—“You got the job!” Knowing that someone has faith in her abilities offers a big boost of self-confidence. Going through the job application process and interviews takes a lot of work and practice. Learning how to conduct herself during interviews gives her the self-assurance to rock the next opportunity, and the one after that, until she lands her dream job. Tell her to think of each interview and job like building muscle; it takes time, but the more effort she puts in, the more she’ll see strength and growth.
Humility: As she learns to trust her abilities and see the value of what she can bring to a work environment, your girl will also be working! And, let’s face it, even summer jobs that seem like fun come with a few less-than-glamorous tasks. Although she might not look forward to cleaning up after messy café customers, stocking museum restrooms, or sweeping up the gym locker room at the end of her shift, these responsibilities show her that sometimes the hardest work is the least recognized and to respect the behind-the-scenes workers who keep so many businesses running by taking care of the nitty gritty.
Time management: This is a major life skill that many adults still have to master! Explain to your girl that little things like showing up on time are so important. People count on her to be there when she’s supposed to. Suggest that she give herself extra time to get ready, even if that means she arrives a little early. She can use the extra time to prepare for her shift so she’s not rushing in at the last minute. Stress that being late, more than making her look unprofessional, signals that she doesn’t have respect for other people’s time. It’s simply a bad look, whether she’s heading to a morning meeting with colleagues or meeting friends for pizza.
Focused ambition: Dreaming of the field she wants to pursue when she’s older and actually trying her hand at it are two very different things. If her summer job does give her a window into the career she’s set her sights on, she’ll have the chance to learn more about the different jobs available and what goes into each one. Whether she comes out on the other side even more excited to follow this path or is not sure it’s for her anymore, knowledge and experiences are power and will help her make smart decisions about where she wants to go next. Meanwhile, having a summer job that isn’t in any way connected to her dreams can be extremely valuable, too! She might discover a whole new field she’s passionate about or simply learn that certain types of jobs are less fulfilling to her than she’d like.
Navigating relationships with coworkers: All (or most) jobs come with coworkers. Although it’s an amazing opportunity for your girl to meet people she wouldn’t normally cross paths with, in terms of age, background, and personality, she may also discover that not all people work seamlessly together at first. Figuring out how to handle conflict in a direct yet respectful manner will serve her well in high school and beyond. Urge her to be professional, even with people at work who get on her nerves. That said, let her know that if a situation escalates to a point where a colleague or even her boss is making her feel unsafe, she should remove herself from the situation as soon as possible and tell you or another trusted adult. Workplace harassment and abuse of power are unfortunately very real threats, and your girl needs to know that she doesn’t have to put up with inappropriate behavior, even from someone who’s paying her.
A sense of her place in society: There’s nothing like getting your first paycheck—and then looking at how much you get to take home after taxes. While that can be a bummer at first, when your girl brings home her first paycheck, it might be worth explaining to her what everything on it means. Let her know that her tax money goes toward improving schools, building better roads, and even funding some museums and cultural events. Learning where her money goes makes sense of the system and might also peak her interest in local politics, because politicians usually decide where all that money ends up!
Financial responsibility: Understanding how much work goes into her earning an hourly wage will likely be an eye-opener. Not only will it teach her the value of money but it also might make her rethink purchases she once considered essential. If she doesn’t already have a bank account, go with her to set up a checking and savings account so she can deposit her money. Most banks allow you to link your accounts to a teenager’s so you and she can track her savings and spending together.
Real-life job skills: Many adults struggle with simple things, like talking on the phone with clients or even speaking up during team meetings. By starting early and developing good habits, these kinds of skills will be second nature by the time your girl gets her first job out of school. Explain to her the importance of professionalism; even if the situation feels casual, she’ll benefit from treating it like a serious responsibility. Let her know that you are happy to practice with her, or suggest that she ask her boss for pointers. Getting her to feel comfortable putting in extra effort will stay with her for a lifetime.
An edge on college applications: Believe it or not, college admissions teams love seeing students who’ve successfully held jobs during high school. Why? Because they know the benefits those young people have gained from the experience! Colleges and universities want students with good grades and high test scores for sure, but they also value applicants who are dependable, have solid follow-through, and have already learned some of life’s lessons on the job.
So whatever your girl’s first summer job might be, resist the urge to value her experience in terms of dollars and cents, and be there for her as she learns the ropes of her new workplace. This is an exciting time in her life that she can use to set the stage for so many successes to come.