Let Your Children Work!

This post is part of the Family and Money topic of Women’s Money Week 2013.

When my Father was growing up, he lived on a farm in the mid-west. His parents and grandparents had been farmer’s most of their lives. They were typically educated only through part of grade school. My Grandfather and Grandmother both only made it through the 6th grade.

Dad and his brother were expected and required to help with work around the farm, from milking the cows to shooing the sheep from the creek during the dust bowl. As with most children, through most of time, they were part of the family’s economic system – helping with the work as well as receiving the benefits.

Education was not their family’s number one priority, but both boys did graduate from high school. Dad went on to go to trade school to learn radio-electronics, which helped him eventually land a job working on the space program.

When I was growing up, although I was assigned chores like trimming the grass with hand clippers or washing the dishes by hand, most of my time was expected and required to be devoted to studies. Mom was one of the few women of her time that had a college degree and in fact later won a Masters degree. She put a high value on education.

She and Dad strongly discouraged me from getting a job, once I was old enough (although they did let me try selling our fruit and selling greeting cards in the summer). They also scrimped and saved to put me through college so I would not have to work (and did not) during the school year. Money earned during the summer was extra, to spend as I pleased instead of necessary to obtaining my education.

My husband’s upbringing was similar, school and education were the ticket to a better life, so working at a burger stand was just out of question!

Although we both received excellent grades and some scholarship money as a result, we missed out on getting some real life job experiences. We both feel we might have been better prepared to land jobs after college if we had a string of work experiences behind us. In fact, we both wished that we had taken a year after high school to work full time.

So, to my grandchildren, who may some day read this post.  Here is …

Why children should work part-time or summer jobs.

Part time and summer jobs help you gain job hunting expertise.

A job search can be daunting if you’ve never had to do one. Learning about the tools and techniques gives you a leg up when you are looking for that first career position. Experiencing resume or interview failures for minor jobs is better than ruining your chances for that once in a life time opportunity.

Part time and summer jobs help you understand that hard work doesn’t necessarily equate to high pay.

Most of us start in jobs that are front end and with low entry requirements – such as bus boy at a restaurant or clerk at a department store, or by doing manual labor. These types of jobs are often the most grueling situations with the fewest benefits and smallest pay.

Part time and summer jobs help give you self confidence.

Even though teachers, Mom and Dad or family members may praise your efforts and characteristics to the sky, you always have that nagging feeling that they do it just because you make good grades and don’t cause a ruckus in school or because you are family. Doing a job well and being recognized for it builds your self confidence in ways your Mom can’t.

Part time and summer jobs help you figure out what you don’t like to do!

Trying out different types of work for a few hours a day or a few months of the year can give you a feel for what you like or don’t like to do. It can help you understand that the work environment in one business is entirely different than the culture in another. You can learn what it feels like to work in a large company vs a small one or in a job that requires physical rather than mental work. Learning these things before you go for that first career job can help prevent a false start in your career.

Part time and summer jobs may help you enter the real workforce at a higher level.

The really lucky (or prepared) kids may find internship jobs that give them a summer’s worth of experience in the field they think they want to pursue. This experience can go a long way in landing a job, getting higher entry positions and pay and in helping you succeed those first few months.

Part time and summer jobs give you more experience handling your own money.

In order to learn how to manage money, you’ve got to have money to manage. Learning the difficulty of making money and having to track it and use it to buy need to haves as well as wanted items can help you learn money management.

Part time and summer jobs can give you experience filing tax returns.

Kids who don’t work (and some who do), don’t have the fun experience of filing an income tax return and seeing their hard earned money deducted from their paycheck to pay Uncle Sam. Learning to file a return when you can do the easy form gives you confidence that you can do it later, when things get a bit more complex.

Part time and summer jobs help you build a network of employers who can refer you.

Those requests for references on that first career position were always agonizing for me. I had to use friend’s parents and teachers on mine. Having satisfied prior employers will relieve that anguish for you. Of course you have to do a good job and satisfy those employers before you ask them to be a reference.

Part time and summer jobs can help you explore the world and the world of work.

If you look past the traditional types of work to consider jobs that take you out of your culture and geography, summer jobs can be life changing. The internet helps you find these jobs or volunteer opportunities. Take a look at the Cool Works site, which lists things such as internships; national and state park jobs; guide jobs and volunteer positions.

Or volunteer for an oversees non-paid job. My nephew is doing that this coming summer. He is raising money for the expenses, volunteering with a not-for-profit, and will be living and working with a native in South American for the summer. He will see an entirely different culture, practice his Spanish and get alternate work experience while helping others. That’s a win-win in my mind.

Understand that I am not proposing that we ignore child labor laws, but you should encourage your child to work when they are old enough and if you are a kid, work on your parents to let them know the benefits you can derive from that part time or summer job! I wish I had.

What benefits did you derive from working while in school?

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