To Work or Not To Work, That is the Question Teens and Parents Are Asking

June 2, 2023

by heather ohs

When I reminisce about my first job as a teen, smells of chlorine, sunscreen, and nacho cheese fill my senses. Almost immediately, I’m transported back to 16-year-old me, wearing my red one-piece swimsuit, twirling my whistle, high up on the lifeguard stand.

A first job, like a first crush, has a way of sticking with us long after they are gone. The lesson here is to choose wisely. 

With so many competing interests for our teens’ time, it’s easy to wonder if encouraging your teen to find a job during the summer is worth the coaxing, and likely prodding, needed to get them to the interview stage of the game and off your couch.

Benefits of a First Job

  • It’s a character-builder. Yes, emptying the grease trap at the end of a dinner shift builds character. 
  • A job helps your teen with people skills, something a cell phone has diminished. Real-time, face-to-face interactions are at the core of experiences that our teens will face as a new employee. 
  • Passions bubble up, problem-solving is flexed, and a foundation for success is established for the future.

While that sounds great for parents, what matters to our teens is the money and other perks. Time spent working with friends or the opposite sex, free or discounted food and drinks, and savings on clothing are some of the perks they might enjoy. These perks are love language and the currency that will motivate them to give up their free time in exchange for a job.

With so many Help Wanted, Part-Time, Full-Time, and No Experience Needed signs visible on every storefront, the opportunities are limitless for your teen. 

Okay, so Now What

Help your teen narrow down a list of five businesses that interest them. It is important that they think through the hours and days of operation of each business to see how that fits with their other commitments such as family, sports, and activities.

Most places have job applications on hand, or they will direct applicants to their website. Encourage your teen to do their research ahead of time and come prepared.

Your teen will need information on hand to fill out the application. Think about references. They may have to get creative using family friends that they have babysat or done yard work for. Coaches and teachers are another suggestion for a reference that can speak to their leadership and dedication.

Dress the Part

When it comes to the interview, make sure to help your teen dress appropriately for the job for which they are applying. A recent shower, a clean and presentable outfit, along with a smile, will go a long way to helping them stand out and make a positive impact. Don’t forget to pay attention to the smaller details like the shoes they absentmindedly slip on. 

Managing Expectations

With most summer jobs, there is the expectation that new hires will work nights and weekends. It is part of the territory. Helping your teen to understand that they may miss getting to hang out with their friends and weekend getaways is something important to address early on when accepting the job.

Wages will be lower, in some cases, minimum wage. But there may be other benefits like tips and free food that can help offset their lower earnings. 

Establishing a goal for their summer job will help your teen select which opportunity is best suited for them. Whether it is exploring a future career, looking for new friends, or focusing on saving money for college, help them choose the opportunity that supports what matters most to them.

For resources related to summer employment for teenagers, please visit Summer and Youth Employment Resources |

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!  

related articles: 

Get local updates, events and special offers!

Local Events