Updated: Jan 19
Starting as early as junior high, I began to worry about how to structure my kids’ summers. The last thing any of us parents need is teenagers sitting around on their iphones or computers all day. And trying to convince most teens to structure their time off wisely is a lost cause. I especially struggled with keeping a 14 year old boy busy while he was out of school.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of options out there….if you have an unlimited budget. You can register for camps, academic enrichment experiences, sport clinics, and the like. Or you could let your kids free-range it, and take a break from their amped up school-year schedules.
But I found a better way to help my kids grow and mature over the summer (and even during the school year) and that was through a part time job. When my kids were 8,10,12 we started a summer day camp at our house – the money we earned paid for the kids extra curricular activities during the school year.
When my oldest turned 15 she got an internship (unpaid) working at a dress shop, that year long internship on Saturdays turned into a paid position when she turned 16. She learned about customer service, money, fashion and the work it takes to run a store. She also started buying her own clothes! Because she had learned time management skills, she was able to take an additional job over Christmas break with Operation Christmas Child, where she worked 40 plus hours a week for 4 weeks, earning over $1,000.
My son just turned 15 and started working at Chick-fil-a. He is shocked at how people don’t pick up after themselves and push in their chairs. That's enough of an education for me to call that a successful job!
My youngest has had a lemonade stand in town for 2 or 3 summers. Her dad built her a stand from old pallets and she has made up to $50 a day selling lemonade (more than my daughter is making in the dress shop)
And the best part? They are gaining life skills, building character and earning money to pay for their own things (movies, phones, shoes, clothes, camps)
As my kids approach college age I had an even bigger question….
What do colleges value? What are the things that companies are looking for in hiring new college grads? Jim Spohrer of IBM lists the following things as "desirables" for new hires; how to work in small teams, how to solve problems, initiative, persistence (grit) to keep going in the face of adversity, and the ability to spring back from failure quickly and learn from what went wrong.
Other skills often listed by employers include; communication, writing, organizational skills, customer service, planning,being detail oriented, Excel and Word.
I want to look at 3 Categories of jobs that are particualarly relevant to high school students. Each has their pros and cons. And, I think you will be suprised at what college admissions officers have to say about some of them.
3 Types of job for High School students
There is an nteresting article from Quartz that I posted last week on my FB page (which you should follow if you don’t already) called “Why a less glamorous job may be the best option for your teen.”
When deciding between a summer spent doing volunteer work or a job in the service industry, college counselor Susan Warner says this, “Colleges will forever find holding a job more attractive than going to Costa Rica to build houses and surf in the afternoons.”
Irena Smith, a former Stanford admissions officer who now runs a private college-consulting practice in Palo Alto, recalled a student whose stand-out essay was about her summers working in fast-food. “Given the population of students I see, she probably shone like a diamond in the applicant pool at Harvard,” she told the Atlantic.
The student was accepted at many Ivy League schools—not because of the job, but because of the way she viewed the world and captured it in her writing. But the job helped her develop the perspective. “Kids think summers are part of the community service Olympics, that it’s about finding a high-profile, impressive activity, that’s not what colleges care about.”
Pros and Cons of service jobs
Answer to “boss”
Submit to authority
Deal with difficult people
Communicate with adults
Develop work ethic
Potentially unpleasant work environment
Limited control of schedule
Must have reliable transportation
Speaking on jobs in the service industry, Richard Weissbourd, a lecturer and researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education says, “The lessons are huge, you see how hard people work, how rude and unthinking people can be to them. It’s a real lesson in how to treat people,” he added.
The first question to ask yourself in this catagory is, "How do I know if I have an entrepreneur?" My friend Jennifer Cook author of Homeschooling for College Credit offers these observations about young entrpreneurs...
Makes deals and trades from a young age with siblings or friends
Looks for ways to profit from deals and trades
Finds their own solution to problems so they can get what they want or need (movies, car, phone, sneakers, etc.)
Strategizes and sets goals to get the things they want
Has their own ideas for running a small business (walking dogs, mowing, babysitting)
Doesn't require pushing or encouragement to start a business or earn money
Follows through on their ideas for businesses or earning money
Pros and Cons of entrepreneurial jobs
Set your own hours
Learn to manage time
Communicate with customers
Earn more per hour
Shows initiative in college admissions
Possibility of failure (actually this could be a good thing)
Earnings depend on talent, organization and hard work
Success dependent on changing market
Open an Etsy shop
Camps for kids
Strategic internships involve exploring jobs in career field(s) of interest. This could be a one day job shadow or a full time summer experience. I believe it is crucial to get your student into the work environment that they have shown an interest in so that they can talk to real people doing that job and see what it is really like on a daily basis. This can quickly help eliminate some of their niave interest in certain fields and encourage their continued exploration in others.
Pros and Cons of Strategic Internships
Learn more about career field of interest (for better or worse)
Make connections in the field
Learn what it takes to succeed in that field
See if you like the work environment
Many internships are unpaid
Can’t do exactly what you want because you lack experience
If your dad gets you the job you don’t learn many of the most important skills
As you can see, there are pros and cons for each catagory of job. You need to ask yourself what type experience you teen most needs this summer before you hit the pavement looking for work. What type job will move then farther down the path of career readiness?
I have compiled a list (with the help of the great website "The Penny Hoarder") of 77 Summer Job Ideas for Teens. If you would like a copy you can access it here.