British Columbia·Opinion

Why teenagers should get a summer job

Life is a series of competitions — we compete for such things as jobs, resources and romantic partners among other things. If you want something, chances are others want it as well.  

Your first step to finding a job should be asking your network if they know of any positions

For teens, "on-the-job" training includes simple skills such like: arriving on-time, respecting others, customer service, coping with criticism and taking initiative. (Dave Roberts/CBC)

Life is a series of competitions — we compete for such things as jobs, resources and romantic partners among other things. If you want something, chances are others want it as well.  

Everyone is looking for a competitive edge, which for teenagers can be as simple as working a summer job.  A University of British Columbia study found that teenagers, aged 16 to 19, who worked summer jobs had greater future earnings and experienced higher job satisfaction than those who took summers off.  

For young people, on-the-job training includes simple but important skills such as arriving on time, respecting others, customer service, coping with criticism and taking initiative.

The earlier you can acquire these skills the better. Employers are quick to employ or promote workers who arrive early, don't always need to be told what to do, and complete their tasks efficiently.  

Teens need to get out of their comfort zone and ask as many people as possible for jobs. They can't be complacent and expect to be handed a job. (The Canadian Press)

When looking for a job, the first step isn't to apply for jobs — that's the second or third step. You should first ask your peer group or network if they know of any positions open. 

This could be a 15-year-old asking for an "in" at a fast food restaurant from a friend that already works there, or a professional/executive doing the same via LinkedIn. It is all about making use of your network. Even teenagers have networks.

I'll use my son as an example as he is a typical 14-year-old. He works as a paperboy and is part of Sea Cadets. He's been promoted several times, he's the co-leader of the First Aid squad and even has his boat licence. It isn't much but he isn't applying to NASA, he just wants to wash dishes or flip burgers. The goal is to show he is responsible and trustworthy.

His first step in finding a summer job would be to reach out to those in his network which include: our neighbour who owns a Dairy Queen, his paper route manager, an officer at cadets, family members, teachers, sport coaches and most importantly, friends who currently have jobs.

He needs to get out of comfort zone and ask as many people as possible. Hopefully his network comes through and he lands an interview. He can't be complacent and expect to be handed a job.

Instead, he should research the prospective employer by checking out their website and social media.  He needs to understand what the company stands for, as he will almost certainly be asked "Why do you want to work for XXX company?"

If he has done his homework properly, he will be prepared with a great answer. 

More than paycheques

Assuming he gets a job, it is equally important to leave on good terms.  He should ask his manager for feedback (positive and negative), and get permission to use them as a reference for a future job as many people forget this step.

A summer job is much more than a couple of paycheques, it is an opportunity to hone skills, add to your network and learn about yourself. It is a stepping stone to future, better paying jobs. 

If you are 14 or 15 years old, and have a hard time finding employment, don't be surprised, if given the choice, employers tend to default to older students. Use the rejections as motivation to find a job next year by improving your network.

You should consider volunteering as these positions often turn into paid positions, particularly with places like community centres.

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