Before writing this blog, I researched the topic and found over 50 scholarly articles authored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and by researchers at top universities and think tanks. The not-exactly-conclusive conclusion to the question of whether teens should work during high school: it depends.
Let’s look at the positives and negatives of working during high school, so that you can make your own informed decision.
Benefits of teens working in high school
Benefits are numerous: earn money for college, meet new people, and learn new hard and soft skills.
- A Paycheck. Earning money for college is the most tangible and quantifiable benefit of a job. If you have a responsibility to provide support for your family or to contribute toward college costs, the choice is clear. Now, focus on finding the job that provides additional benefits beyond the paycheck.
- New Friends. Friendships are valuable. You have the opportunity to learn about new activities, cultures, and traditions. You may find a new best friend, study buddy, or even a date for the prom.
- Hard Skills. Hard skills are skills that are specific and teachable, defined and measured. Examples include the following: typing, bookkeeping, language proficiency, construction, coding, and data analysis. Hard skills are typically learned in books, classrooms, or on the job. Consider what skills you’d like to acquire or improve. Do you want to be in an office (word processing, spreadsheets, bookkeeping, social media management, programming) or in the field (carpentry, electrical, botany, wildlife identification, water safety)? Or is retail (point-of-sale equipment, inventory control, scheduling, customer service) more your speed? No matter the job, you’ll be acquiring hard skills to take with you.
- Soft Skills. Soft skills are interpersonal — or people — skills. Soft skills characterize how people interact. In a work environment, you’ll have the chance to both learn and demonstrate soft skills highly valued by colleges and by employers. Among the most important are the following:
- Decision making
- Time management
While working, look for mentoring opportunities. Managers who know the importance of these skills will likely write an excellent letter of recommendation. Check out more tips to ensure you get a great letter of rec.
Cautions for teens working in high school
The benefits of working during high school are plentiful, but I end with one caution. Whenever you’re working, you aren’t studying. So be mindful of your studies and don’t let work impact your GPA. The most important element of your college application will always be your GPA, especially high grades earned in rigorous courses. Please strive to maintain balance and embrace a job while being mindful of still putting your best foot forward in your academics.
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