Eye on Exteions: The value of summer employment

VALLEY — As the school year starts to wind down, it’s time for teens to start thinking about their summer plans. One option for teens is to find a summer job. Summer work, both with a business, or in an informal role, such as babysitting, has a number of advantages.

According to Pew research about one in three teens take a summer job at some point in their high school career. These teens gain benefits in both the short and long term. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that kids who work summer jobs have higher grade point averages, better attendance records, and demonstrate more responsible behaviors than those who don’t. A long-term study by the UBC Sauder School of Business shows that teens with summer jobs also gain competitive advantages later in life. These teens are more likely to find good jobs and earn more money as adults.

A number of these benefits result because summer work builds valuable life skills. Successful employees need to be on time, have a good attitude, and work well with others. Practicing these behaviors through a job help teens strengthen their time management, teamwork, and follow-through. Teens with summer jobs also improve their communication and conflict management skills, especially if they work in service fields. All of these skills help students be more prepared for future careers and higher education.

Another benefit of summer employment is that it gives kids practice filling out job applications and doing job interviews. Understanding what is involved in the job application process helps kids be more prepared to have success with it in the future. Teens also get the opportunity to reflect on their application experiences, which can help them identify their strengths, as well as areas they can improve.

Having a summer job is also a great way to start making professional contacts. Employees’ managers can help serve as references for things like scholarships and college applications. They can also help connect youth with future full-time job opportunities. The bottom line is that kids with summer jobs get a great head start on building the networks they’ll need to succeed later in life.

Youth who work outside the home also gain autonomy. They learn to be responsible and independent as they manage their schedules and money. Most youth get summer jobs because it will give them the freedom to purchase things they want, such as movie tickets, video games, and clothes. The practice they gain managing their own finances as they make these purchasing decisions is invaluable. Teens with jobs develop a better understanding of how much work goes into each dollar they spend. This helps them to make better decisions about what to buy. It also helps them value the things they purchase, because they worked hard to earn them.

One last benefit of summer employment is that it helps kids gain self-understanding. Any form of work is going to provide teens the opportunity to reflect on what they enjoy and don’t enjoy doing. Knowing these pieces of information can help students steer themselves to work they will find more rewarding. For example, some people might find they enjoy working with their hands, while others might find themselves suited to customer-service oriented tasks. This type of knowledge can help teenagers make choices about what educational opportunities and future careers they might want to pursue.

If your teen is looking to take advantage of the benefits of summer work, they should start right away. Summer employers are already searching for their next hire! If a formal position isn’t available, teens can look for short-term work. Or they can be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses doing things like babysitting and pet care. Whatever the job, the payoff for teen workers will be a brighter future.

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. To find out more about Extension and the 4-H program visit http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu or call 719-852-7381. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.