Part-time jobs build practical skills

Even though part-time jobs may not sound impressive, the experience of working and accumulating earnings is a benefit for teenagers that should not be diminished.


by Mary Massman, Breaking News Editor

It’s 5 p.m. on Friday night, and I stifle a yawn as I ring up a child’s birthday gift. Preparing myself to go to work can be tough, and sometimes the hours I spend at the toy store seem to be building to nothing.

When I get my paycheck two weeks later, however, I’m grateful for this commitment I’ve made. I think more teenagers should work part-time jobs to experience the responsibility, management skills and rewards available.


“Why do you work?” I have been asked this question multiple times by friends, and I’ve sometimes struggled to answer it. Working at this point in my life is not a necessity, as most of my expenses are covered by my parents. With the high price of college, however, and the expenses of dining out and buying clothes for myself, I do see the money I earn from working part-time as empowering. Ultimately, I will not be able to depend on my parents financially, and working helps me gain an appreciation for money management.


Despite the benefits of part-time jobs, the employment rates for teens are on a downward trend. According to a study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, the employment rate for teens ages 16-19 in the U.S. fell by 19 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, from 46 percent to about 27 percent. I can think of many possible reasons for this decline, but overall perhaps people are losing sight of the real value of a part-time job.


I understand how easy it is to overlook the importance of working a part-time job when college admissions offices seem to always emphasize the importance of having an abundance of extracurriculars. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rising number of employed teenagers’ jobs, about 34 percent in 2017, fall under accommodations and food service. Among varied and impressive academic clubs or varsity sports, it makes sense how working a few days a week at an ice cream store could be written off as invaluable or a waste of time, but perhaps there is a different value in maintaining that job.


Setting aside a fixed amount of time to go to work and earn money is a rewarding way of spending time I might otherwise waste. It forces me to be more efficient when I get home from work, because I cannot justify putting off homework as easily. When I know that I have to go work for three hours after school, I am more motivated to power through my math homework during a free period instead of aimlessly browsing through my phone. Maintaining a job has helped me acquire time management skills that are vital to reducing stress over any buildup of schoolwork. Work is a commitment to an employer, so I cannot skip it as easily as I could an extracurricular when I have schoolwork to complete. Still, I have learned the importance of clear communication with my boss when conflicts arise, and I recognize the need to advocate for myself and sometimes put myself first.


Overall, it shouldn’t matter how a part-time job reads on a resume because the learned skills and values inherent in being employed are different than those of extracurriculars, and they cannot be found on a lacrosse field. Part-time jobs are not intended to replace extracurriculars, and in my experience they do not have to. The point of a part-time job shouldn’t be to overtake your downtime or limit your ability to pursue robotics. Instead, it should serve as an introduction to the responsibilities of being employed, and an expansion of efficient and rewarding ways you can use your time to pave the way for your future.