Should your Child get a Summer Job?

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When he was 12-years-old, Steve Jobs looked up Bill Hewlett’s, co-founder of The Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), phone number and asked for help building a frequency counter. Not only did the CEO of HP agree to help Jobs; he offered the aspiring developer a summer job. Other well-known success stories were not so lucky with their first attempts at employment: Oprah Winfrey worked at a grocery store; Tom Cruise was a paperboy. But at least they learned what they didn’t love to do.
Having a job at a young age can be an extremely valuable and life-changing experience. But what jobs are best for young people? How much should they work? And how does a kid find a job, anyway? Here are some questions you should answer when helping your child or teen to find summer employment:
What’s the goal?
The first step is to figure out why your child needs or wants a job: is it to make money, stay busy, meet people, learn a skill, explore potential careers or some combination of these reasons? Figuring out which priorities are at the top of the list will help to guide your search.
Where should we look?
The newspaper and popular forums like Craigslist are a good place to start. Several national job sites, like monster.com and groovejob.com, include special listings for teen, student, and summer employment opportunities. Lastly, personal connections (yours or your child’s) can be a great way to find a summer job opportunity that’s well-suited to a young, inexperienced worker.
What does the law say about underage workers?
There are federal laws about how much young people can work and where, depending on their age and the time of year (14 and 15-year-olds are limited in how much they can work during the school year). The Fair Labor Standards Act also protects young people from working in hazardous jobs, like agricultural work or any job that requires the operation of heavy equipment. These laws don’t apply when young people are working for their parents. Laws vary from state to state, so check your local statute for specific details about what your child can and cannot do.
What are the best jobs for young people?
Good jobs for older children and tweens include babysitting, a paper route, lawn mowing, pet sitting, lemonade sales (and marketing, of course); and dog walking. Teenagers can find employment in all of these areas, in addition to becoming a restaurant worker, office or administrative assistant, camp counselor, retail or food service worker.
What about internships?
If it’s not important that your child make money, internships are a great way for teenagers especially to explore potential career options and see if they can truly handle what their position of interest requires on a day-to-day basis. In addition, a teenager who already has a clear idea of his or her passion often has an advantage getting “in” with experts in the field or a well-regarded company because of their youth.
There is much more that could be said about young people and summer jobs, but the bottom line is: it’s worth it! Encourage (or require) your kids to do something to contribute, and you’ll be making a down payment on their future success.

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