Eleanor writes on many topics, including parenting, single parenting, party and activity ideas, and career and home life.
When children grow up and reach their mid-teen years, one of the options they might consider is whether or not to get a part-time job to fit around school or studies.
In the UK, the earliest a minor can usually begin any kind of work is 13, when they can take on a paper round. During my childhood, this was a very popular choice, but today it is on the decline, perhaps due to fewer people wanting a newspaper delivered as they turn to online news sites, and more adults taking up the positions that are available instead. Issues of safety around setting off for an early morning round means many parents are not keen on their child doing this type of work any longer.
The usual age that a minor can be employed in a company, such as a retail store, is 16. By 16, most teenagers are capable of working a few hours per week—I certainly encouraged my son to do so, particularly when he kept asking for items I couldn't, and didn't want to, afford.
However, my son had other ideas at the time, and only halfheartedly searched for a Saturday job. That meant that some of his friends had a much higher disposable income than he had, and thus he couldn't afford many of the things they spent money on.
But it's not just about the money. Here is a list of reasons why teenagers can benefit from working a part-time job.
1. It Fosters an Appreciation of Money and a Growing Independence
There is nothing that teaches a teenager an appreciation of money and the true value of the things they buy than having to spend their own money to get what they want. The weeks or months of saving; the patience required; the sacrifice of other purchases along the way—it is all an important lesson that prepares them for their future as a responsible adult who can function well in an adult world.
Children constantly badger their parents for things on a whim. They can be forgiven, more so, the younger they are. Children don't have the perspective to understand the bigger picture or the purchase cost of the item they want in relation to everything else. But as children grow up it is important that they learn the value of the things they want, and the work it takes to get them.
2. It Improves Social Skillls
Getting a part-time job as a teenager can really help to improve their social skills. Places of work introduce young people to other employees that are typically diverse in age and background. It can seem daunting to be the 'young person' and have to interact with people who might be decades older. It might not be something they've ever encountered before, except within their own families or with their teachers. If the job is a service job, they will probably also meet a range of customers, diverse not only in age, but in personality type.
However, being able to interact with people from all walks of life is a valuable skill. Good social skills mean that they will be better prepared for many future roles, and more able to handle a variety of situations. A young person with good social skills can also appear more confident, hence giving them an advantage in many circumstances.
3. It Teaches Self-Discipline
Working introduces a form of self-discipline that many young people might not be used to. Up until now, their main responsibility might have been arriving at school on time or handing in homework before the deadline. But being late for work typically comes with more undesirable consequences than being late for school, such as loss of pay and even loss of job if lateness is persistent.
Many part-time jobs involve getting up early on the weekend or rearranging social life around working commitments. This is all good practice that will stand a teenager in good stead for the future, encouraging a mature, responsible attitude that will appeal to future employers.
4. It Improves Self-Confidence
Like many of us, teenagers often lack self-confidence, particularly in unfamiliar situations. Whereas older adults might have become used to feeling anxious but having to put themselves through a certain task or experience anyway, a teenager's first reaction might be that of avoidance.
Having a job means that most people encounter tasks or situations that feel daunting, particularly at first. But avoidance at work is not generally an option, and most people find that once they have become used to a certain situation, or learned a particular task and carried it out a few times, the anxiety disappears and they are equipped with a new skill instead.
Learning how to deal with different scenarios and becoming adept at different tasks, no matter how 'simple' they may seem, helps a young person to grow in confidence and develop as a person, as well as leaving them better prepared for the future. There are many professions and scenarios in which an inner self-confidence is a notable advantage, so it is advantageous to acquire some early experience.
5. It Is Good For Self-Esteem
Earning their own money and being able to deal with different situations and people can help a young person to feel better about themselves. Not having to rely on asking parents for money fosters a sense of responsibility and self-worth, and the opportunity to make their own choices. Not only that, but it enables a teenager the chance to do things for other people, such as choose gifts for family members for birthdays and Christmas, and even donate to any charities they feel passionate about. It's a known fact that doing things for others helps people to feel good about themselves.
6. It Opens Up Opportunities
This is perhaps the best reason from a teenager's point of view—having a job offers opportunities and a new sense of freedom. With their own earned income, they can spend money on items parents might not be happy to, or might not be able to afford. They can afford tickets to gigs; go to the cinema when all their friends are going without having to ask for money; buy those expensive shoes and clothes they really want; take up a new pastime; have driving lessons and ultimately their own car; even save up to travel overseas when they are old enough.
Primarily, having a job offers a teenager choices and opens up a bigger world of possibilities. They can say 'yes' when asked to socialise with friends, without having to rely on parents agreeing to foot the cost first. Many of the things teenagers want to spend money on far exceed the average allowance, even when they earn money by doing chores at home. Getting their first job can help to solve that issue.
From a long term point of view, having work experience on a CV is advantageous when applying for future opportunities, whether that is another job or a course of study. It indicates a resourceful, independent and driven young person who will be an asset to a company or institution.