On the old Dobbie Gillis show, Maynard G. Krebs' voice used to crack every time he said the word “work.” To him, work was a dirty word. Today, things are different; kids work, even at a young age, and each kid has his own reasons for working.
Financial Building Blocks
According to a survey reported in USA Today, about two-thirds of college students work to earn money while they're in school. About a quarter of them earn between $200 and $400 a month; more than a quarter of them earn even more.
Some do it only (or mainly) for the money—they need or want extra money, and working is the way to get it.
Others do it for a variety of other reasons—they want to fill up their time, gain experience, or just get out into the world.
Of course, before your child takes a job, it's a good idea for you to discuss certain parameters about working: how many hours a week you think is appropriate, how far you'll let your child travel to a job, and what type of work you think is acceptable (or unacceptable). You don't want your child commuting and working long hours at the expense of the time needed for school work or other activities.
Non-monetary Benefits of Working
Working can do more for your child than provide spending money. Many of these benefits also may translate into dollars down the road:
Piggybank on It
Children too young to work can begin to learn about the work ethic at home by doing chores. They'll learn how to start and finish an assigned task, which is a good foundation for getting a job.
- Instilling a good work ethic. It may sound old-fashioned, but there's nothing wrong with having a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to work. Understanding what's required to get and keep a job or to earn a promotion are just basic parts of being a responsible adult. The earlier a child starts to learn this responsibility, the more natural it becomes. Taking responsibility for work also can carry over to taking responsibility for money, too.
- Learning skills. Okay, so stocking shelves at the A&P or flipping burgers at McDonalds doesn't exactly supply the job skills of a lifetime. But it can help a child learn to pace herself to get work done and gain self-confidence in doing something well. Some jobs can offer a child the chance to learn things that can be helpful in landing better jobs later, and working at any job can teach time-management skills. It's the old cliché of asking a busy person to handle a job that needs to get done. Working will help a child learn to manage her time more effectively.
- Gaining experience. It's the old catch 22: The job requires work experience, but your child can't get that experience without getting a job. Starting at a job—any job—is the first step in building up work experience that can be used to catapult your child later into a better job.
- Trying out work environments. Does your child think he'd enjoy working in a hotel? In television? He can use a job to test possible career paths. When my daughter was in high school, she thought she wanted to be a scientist until she worked for a summer in a physicist's lab. This job convinced her that she did not want to spend her working years cooped up in a lab.
- Testing aptitude. Getting a job now not only can show your child that she likes a particular field, but it also can show her whether she's good at it. She may want to go into radio, but working at the campus radio station can show her whether she has the voice quality and the gift of gab needed to pursue her dream. It's better to learn early that she's headed down a dead-end career path so that she can change her dream and go off in another direction.