Should High Schoolers Have Part-Time Jobs?


This week, the New York Times‘s “Adventures in Parenting” blog wants to know whether it’s okay for teenagers to have part-time jobs, given that everyday high school course loads increasingly resemble a Harvard MBA student’s to-do list.

In my opinion, it’s not only “okay” — it’s crucial. I had a variety of part-time jobs during high school, ranging from a babysitter to a salesperson at a high-end clothing store (where I was paid below minimum wage and literally wasn’t allowed to sit down) to an intern for the west coast editor of a fashion magazine. (Well, I didn’t get paid for that one, but she gave me a lot of free clothes which I then sold to Buffalo Exchange, so it kind of counts.)

I asked the Jezebel staff whether they worked in high school, and everyone said yes, with positions ranging from locker room attendant at the community swimming pool to dishwasher to nursing assistant to newspaper deliverer to Gap clerk to tele-surveyer to dog-walker.

I get why today’s parents would fear that part-time jobs could eat into studying time, since there’s already so much pressure on high schoolers to succeed academically, but college is only a few years out of the rest of your adult life and, as too many of us know from personal experience, having a degree hardly guarantees you a job in the real world. I’d argue that the skills you learn while working as a high schooler — not just the money management and job-specific know-how, but people skills, like dealing with irate customers, coworkers, and bosses (thanks to my first ever boss, I learned how to assert myself and the importance of having a lunch break) — are just as important as homework, even if you’re lucky enough to not have to work for financial reasons. Thoughts?

Image via JinYoung LeeShutterstock.

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