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The Truth about Part-Time Jobs for Teens

Updated on February 11, 2017
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Sabrina loves to write about love, life, and everything in-between in a candid yet humorous approach.

It seems like nowadays it is the normal thing for most teens to have part time jobs. In fact, it is more common for teens to have jobs than not to have jobs. Parents want their teens to learn responsibility and how to handle their money early on so that they learn the value of the dollar and make smart financial decisions for the rest of their lives. Some parents actually require their teens to get jobs if they want to have cars or cell phones. Other parents agree to pay for cars as long as their teens get jobs to pay for their insurance, gas, and cell phone bills. So what's the truth about part time jobs and are they really worth it or just a waste of time and ruining your kids future?

When I was in high school, which was in the early to mid 2000's (2003-2007) it was typical for most teens to have part time jobs after school. In fact, when my friends turned 16 most of them did go on to get part time jobs in restaurants, stores, and various other places. I had never really given it much thought before but when my friends started getting jobs I figured it would be fun for me to get one as well. Being an only child, my parents didn't really require me to get a job but I thought I would anyway because all my friends were doing it and I wanted to know what the big deal was. My parents weren't sure about it at first because their main concern was how it was going to effect my education. Would it really be worth it to get a part time job with a minimum wage and risk it causing me to get lower grades because I didn't have time to study because I had to work? Well, I was about to find out.

Before I started my part time job, I brushed away the concerns of my parents figuring I could handle school and work without it negatively affecting my grades. I had been a good student all my life so I figured it wouldn't make that much of a difference for me. I learned how wrong I was probably my first week working because I realized just how much homework and study time I was losing by having a job. For me, school got out at 2:30pm everyday and when I had to work from 3:00pm to 10:00pm I really didn't have any study time at all not to mention any energy or desire to study after such a long shift at work. Even with a shorter work shift like 4:00pm to 9:00pm that still left me with minimal time to study or do homework. My weekends didn't look much better because I had to work most weekends and had maybe a few hours left to myself to do everything I hadn't had time to do during the week. I was stressed, self deprived, and just not happy about life because I had taken on more than I could handle.

I tried to get less hours but even working 15 or 20 hours a week proved to be too much when you're used to being an A student and don't want to settle for being an average C student when you know you can do better but you just don't have the time or energy to try. Was I really learning the value of a dollar? To be honest no. I didn't learn the value of a dollar until I started educating myself about it and actually wanting to learn about how to manage money wisely. Most of the time after paying for gas for the car and my cell phone bill, I used the remaining money to buy things I didn't really need in the first place. I was making maybe $8.00 an hour at my part time job but it was costing me more because my grades were dropping and my chances of getting into a good college could be jeopardized because of a job I simply didn't need.

Of course, some teens need a part time job and don't have any other choice but to have one. The only thing they can do is hope to have a free period at school where they can finish all their homework that they couldn't the night before because of work. Or they could limit their hours and just work on the weekends but that is something that many workplaces frown upon because they need you when they need you and that's not just on the weekends. I tried many times to lower my hours at work as much as possible but they pretty much told me that if I didn't work a certain number of hours I should just quit because it's pointless to work 15 hours a week.

The truth is, it is pointless to work 15 hours a week and jeopardize your future when you can just not work at all and focus on your studies instead. You're not going to win in life if you put in all your efforts at a thankless part time job and miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime by not going to college and getting an education so that one day you can have a real job that pays well and that you can actually support yourself and your family with. Many young people make the fatal mistake of giving their all to their part time jobs and missing out on getting an education. It's really not worth it when you think long term. I'd rather not have the extra money that I get from a part time job but study hard and know that what I am doing today is going to make a positive difference for my future.

I would recommend for teens to not have part time jobs if they absolutely don't need them. If your parents are going to pay for your car and cell phones, why are you killing yourself working when you should be studying hard and trying to get into a good college? If the parents require teens to work they should at least try to limit their work hours to just the weekends so the teens can get their homework done during the week. The best thing would be for the teen to just work summers and holidays, that way they are making money and "learning the value of the dollar" but it's not affecting their education and future. They learn everything they need to learn but in a safe way where they're not stressed out trying to figure out how they're going to pass the math test tomorrow when they haven't had time to crack open a book due to work.

It all comes down to choices in life and this is a big one. Teens and parents have to realize that success is the difference between what they want now and what they want long term. A few extra dollars now is not worth missing out on extra millions dollars in the long run. That's right, college graduates make an average of a million dollars more during their life than just high school graduates. My parents always taught me about the value of education and it's stuck with me throughout my life. Yes, I did have a part time job by choice, but I decided to leave it by choice too because I realized I couldn't do both school and work well and one was going to suffer and it was always school and school was more important.

The saddest thing in life is wasted talent and that is what I saw a lot of at my part time job. There were many wonderful, smart, people who choose to spend their lives at a part time job that later turned into a full time job and dropped out of college completely because they thought it was the right decision at the time and they needed the money more than they needed the education...or so they thought. So fast forward 20 years and they're pushing 40 years old and they're still at the job they had when they were a teen. Is their salary more? Sure it's a couple of dollars more to compete with inflation but they're still not making the money they could have made if they went to college. Are they stupid? No, they're actually very intelligent people, they just made a few wrong choices when they were young and they're still paying for them as adults. They're working their butt off at a thankless jobs making a little more than minimum wage. Might they still have dreams of going to college? Sure, but they just remain dreams because if they couldn't handle at job and college in their 20s they definitely can't do it in their 40s. And so they continue working at that job until they retire. It's such a sad story but it is the reality of many people you see who work at minimum wage jobs. People call them "lifers" because they spend their life at a job that you should only spend at part time...if that.

I would really recommend for parents and teens to sit down and really discuss this issue together because it deserves a lot of attention. It is the one thing that can really make or break someone's future without them really realizing it until it's too late. I realize that everyone is different and some people can handle both work and school but that's very few people and if they can handle it, at what cost? Are they losing their health and becoming stressed out and depressed in the process? If so then the cost is too high. Putting a kid to work at young age doesn't make you a good parent because you think you're teaching them independence, it just means you're making a kid deal with things they shouldn't be dealing with until they're older and depriving them of an education and future in the process. And if parents aren't even making their children work but it's the teen's choice then it's the parents job to have a talk about what really matters in life and what doesn't. A minimum wage job is a dime a dozen, you can get one anytime you want because they're always out there, a college education on the other hand is one of those things you have only a limited amount of time to get because the opportunity won't always be there. You have to make the right decision about what matters most in life and that means thinking long term. If I learned anything from my part time job it's that I never want to work at a place like that again so I made sure that wasn't going to happen by getting a college education and never looking back.

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