Pros and Cons: Summer Jobs for TeensJune 4, 2014
By Kevin Rutter
Summer is around the corner and the time away from school provides an opportunity for young people to step into the working world. As your teen considers a summer job, first make sure he or she is adhering to youth labor laws and then weigh the pros and cons of summer employment.
Youth Labor Laws
The United States Department of Labor is the federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that provides guidance on youth employment, sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years old and limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16. Since the rules vary depending on the age, the job, and individual state laws, check with your child’s high school counselor on your state’s law. He or she can also provide you with the necessary documents to apply for employment.
At my high school, I am the facilitator of the Cooperative Education Program that helps students land jobs during the school year. I am a big proponent of youth employment because of its many benefits. Here are my top three pros:
- Orientation to the employment process. Finding a job is not an easy thing to do and it requires several steps, including filling out an application, submitting a resume/cover letter, and interviewing. Getting your child to engage in this process helps to build a foundation for confidence in filling out other applications, producing better resumes/cover letters, and in interview situations.
- Making money. Earning some money is a great thing and teaches your child the value of a dollar. It also provides you a chance to teach him or her about money management. You can help your child open a checking account (many banks have accounts specifically for high school students) and learn a basic principle in earning money: PYF. PYF stands for Pay Yourself First and means that every time a person has money coming in, they must feed their own savings account first, before anything else is paid out. Professional financial advisors suggest automatically setting aside 10 percent for this purpose, but teenagers have less fiscal obligations than adults and can easily set aside a greater percentage. I would suggest 25 percent for your student.
- Learning workplace norms. Working a summer job teaches a student a broad range of valuable employability skills like showing up on time, working well with others, verbal communication, problem solving, and following the rules.
There are some cons to teens having a summer job. My top two are:
- Spending money foolishly. I have observed a big mistake with some of my students: they don’t save their money properly. To have a healthy, happy financial life, it is critical that they get into the habit of setting some of what they earn aside.
- Burning bridges. It is also very important exit the summer job on a good note. Future employers will call the places your child has worked to check on how he or she behaved and performed in the workplace. Take care to emphasize to your child that he or she must put in two weeks’ notice prior to leaving the job and should resolve any conflicts that arise in a professional manner.
It’s smart to consider all the pros and cons of each employment opportunity that might interest your child. Talk to your teen about financial responsibility, appropriate workplace behavior, and the benefits of getting a job in order to figure out what he or she wants to be when the times come to decide on a career path.