Tales from the working teen

By: Dina Usanovic

There are certain aspects of a teen’s life that are nearly universal across the board. One of these aspects is a job. Teens, especially recently, typically enter the workforce around the age of 15-16, working after school or on weekends. It is important to consider this experience is truly beneficial for them.

Personally, I think that having a job early in life teaches responsibility and allows teens to form their own schedules around said responsibilities, which prepares them for their careers later in life. In my family, those who do not have jobs sleep in until noon and do not go to sleep until 2 a.m., while those who do have jobs are asleep by 11 p.m. and wake up by 7 a.m. 

The latter forms healthier sleep schedules and makes it easier to function during the day. According to Phillips & Sandstrom, most parents encourage their teens to work because it instills positive traits, including independence, responsibility, interpersonal skills, and a good work ethic. When teens take advantage of jobs and adopt qualities that are associated with and looked for in lifetime careers, they will be better off than those who do not. 

However, some psychologists posit that youth employment could cut short teen adolescent experiences, in which they are free from adult-like pursuits, stressors, and responsibilities. They view adolescence and an important passage for young adults to experience a joyful and free life before entering adulthood. 

While this is true, it is also important to note that young adults often have much more flexible work hours than adults and that they still typically have time for a few responsibility-free nights. 

While I do not suggest teens work over 30 hours a week to get the career experience, I encourage teens to have at least one job prior to entering adulthood. This gives them the ability to learn how to manage their own schedules, have the responsibility to prioritize and show up on time, and learn important interpersonal skills and work ethic that will guide them through their future careers. Having a job early in adolescence provides an experience that will give teens a short-term commitment to serve as a dry-run for their futures.

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