More than minimum wage – the benefits of summer jobs

How many of us have waited tables, sat in a lifeguard chair, or worked the register at the local grocery store? We can look back at those times and tell ourselves that it built character, and we would mostly mean it. But do you remember how hard it was to see the benefits of that summer job when we only had a couple of months to ourselves and the sun was beckoning us to Popsicles poolside with friends? Today’s teens feel the same way we did, so they might need a little encouragement right about now. Here are some benefits of working that you can share with them as the new job excitement wears off.

1. Every job provides invaluable experience. It may not seem like there is much to learn tearing tickets at the movie theater, but there is. My daughter held that job one summer, and she learned that people don’t clean up after themselves. How is this valuable? It made her realize that she should, so other people don’t have to. If that’s not a life lesson, I don’t know what is.

2. Every job exposes you to people who are unlike you, and you learn about them and yourself in the process. For every kid who has grown up with other kids from the same socioeconomic background, there’s a whole workplace full of people to remind him that people hail from all walks of life. Suddenly, your son realizes that not everyone was raised like him. He will envy some and be astounded by others who never had what he has. It’s a huge, eye-opening experience for kids who have lived a relatively sheltered life.

3. Hard work brings rewards. If they don’t like the size of the reward, they must figure out a way to work for more satisfying results. Early in life, they begin to think about how hard they are willing to work for a certain amount of compensation. I’ve known a lot of kids who go to college or a trade school because a summer job showed them that they don’t want to dish out fries for a living. Better to discover this at 16 than at 36.

Don’t expect them not to complain. They will. But maybe a gentle reminder of these rewards and others will keep them on the working path and help them to strive harder for what they really want.

I would love to hear about your best and worst summer jobs. Please share!

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