Building work experience
Kids in the U.S. start working early. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of the 12 year olds have some experience, primarily yard work or babysitting. Nearly four out of ten 15 year olds hold a "real" job, mostly in service, sales, or laborer jobs.
Should my high school child have work experience?
There are many advantages to teenagers getting work experience during high school or earlier:
- It helps them understand the world of work and make better decisions about where they fit in.
- They learn skills, attitudes, and habits required to be successful in work. In almost any type of job, they will learn about time management, meeting deadlines, and following directions. They will probably improve their problem-solving, interpersonal communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.
- It helps them learn about managing their own money. They will learn the "value of a dollar." They earn their own spending money. They will be able to save money for college or other priorities.
- It helps them establish a work history and references. If they have done a good job, they will have an advantage in finding work later, whether a part-time summer job or permanent employment.
For your teenagers' jobs to be most meaningful and valuable, talk to them about what they are learning about themselves and the work world. You might ask them questions that help them reflect, such as:
- How does your job relate to your interests?
- What are you learning about working life? What surprises you?
- What do you like and dislike about the work or work environment and how does that affect your future plans?
- What are your strengths in this job and what are your weaknesses? How might you improve in those weaker areas?
How can I help my child find a good balance between school and work?
In addition to providing extra money and real-world experience, working after school or on weekends can be a great step toward maturity and independence. Unfortunately, a job in high school or college also can distract teens from their primary task: making the grade in school and getting ready for life after they graduate.
To help your high school child make good decisions about a job, you need to:
- Know the law. In Oregon, the Bureau of Labor and Industries monitors the employment of minors. A brochure, "Employment of Minors - A guide for 14 through 17-year-olds, their parents and employers," is available on their website at http://www.boli.state.or.us/BOLI/WHD/CLU/docs/employmentminorsbrochure.pdf
- Talk with your teen. Make sure you both understand how much time the job will require and how it will affect the amount of time needed for schoolwork.
- Keep an eye on grades. Make it clear that school comes first.
Are there work-related classes or clubs at school?
Having a paid job is one approach to getting relevant work experience. Career-related learning experiences and service learning (or volunteer work) are others. Oregon's requirements for high school graduation are discussed in Experiencing the world of work.
Many high schools also offer clubs and student associations that focus on future careers. Through these groups, students are exposed to business ideas and interact with business professionals via courses, conferences, networking and tours. They also gain skills in leadership, communication, teamwork and socialization. Some clubs and associations offer competitions, prizes, scholarships and internships.
Your school may support one or more of these student leadership organizations:
- AOFC, Associated Oregon Forestry Clubs
- DECA, Association of Marketing Students at http://www.oregondeca.org
- FBLA, Future Business Leaders of America at http://www.orfbla.org
- FCCLA, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America at http://www.fcclainc.com
- FFA, Association of Agriculture Science and Technology Students at http://www.oregonffa.com
- HOSA, Health Occupations Students of America at http://www.oregonhosa.org
- SkillsUSA–VICA, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America at http://www.oregonskillsusa.com
Your school may also support Junior Achievement (JA). JA exposes students to the concepts of economics and free enterprise through hands-on experiences. The organization sponsors school-based enterprises; develops courses and programs on economics, personal finance, and workplace skills; and guides students through a web-based business simulation; among other activities. JA for Columbia Empire, Inc, serves Oregon and SW Washington; see http://portland.ja.org/.