A Job During High School – Is It Worth It?

By Max Ayoub

It’s mid-November, almost finals season, which means the stress and workload teenagers have to deal with is at  its peak for the semester. Every high school student is constantly looking for more free time to relax; to take a break from the constant homework, studying, and extracurriculars. So what better way to fill that time than to get a part-time job?

Now, that’s probably the last thing most teenagers these days want to do. Adding on more work to an already heavy workload seems incredibly counterintuitive, and therefore many teens shy away from the notion of getting a part-time job. At first glance, it seems as though the positives are clearly outweighed by the negatives. More time spent doing work equates to less free time overall, which is already scarce and highly sought after. Additionally, with more time being spent on your job, your grades might suffer. With all of these reasons stacked up against high school employment, it seems as though it simply isn’t a feasible option for teens these days. However, if you’ll take a moment to consider the potential benefits, I think you’ll find the option to be quite viable.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: most teenagers simply have no room on their schedule to squeeze in a job. Even if it’s part time, most base-level jobs require you to work a decent amount of hours per week. The solution to this conundrum seems simple, yet difficult to achieve successfully. Something that most teens struggle with–time management. Getting a job will force you to manage your time better, simply because you don’t have a choice. In order to stay on top of your academic work while employed, you need to strike a balance between your two workloads. While this may be difficult, it is an important life skill that needs to be learned at some point or another. In “real life,” you’re going to have multiple tasks to juggle at once. The key is prioritizing, working efficiently, and most importantly, knowing your limits. Don’t request to work five days a week if you can’t handle the workload that comes with it. When you have a part-time job, you learn your limits quickly, and learn to work with them. This is a skill that cannot be taught, it can only be learned through firsthand experience.

Aside from learning to manage time efficiently, a plethora of other important life skills come with the responsibility of a job. Most job opportunities for high school teens fall within the retail and fast food industries, both of which (especially fast food) are very demanding of one thing in particular: people skills. You interact with all kinds of people on a constant basis while working these jobs; co-workers, managers, customers, and sometimes random people harassing you for no reason. Dealing with people in a professional environment is something most teens won’t learn how to do until after college, and by getting a job before then, you gain a significant advantage that puts you ahead in this competitive economy. There are also the specific skills acquired from each individual job, such as making fries, washing dishes, or stocking shelves. While these may seem niche, they can be applied to a broader range of contexts, making them useful life skills.

Another huge benefit of having a job is financial independence. No longer will you be begging your parents to slip you a 20 for the weekend or doing menial chores for a measly allowance. You’ll have money of your own, and you are free to spend it however you see fit. Of course, financial independence comes with financial responsibility. You’ll have to learn how to manage your money carefully, and this is another great life skill that is necessary for a successful career.

I’ll close out with a personal anecdote. In September of this year, after persuasion from a few friends, I applied to a local  McDonald’s and got the job with relative ease. After two months of working there, I can say that the experience has been truly enlightening, challenging, and especially rewarding. I’ve learned to manage both my school work and work hours, paying due and equal attention to both. I’ve interacted with people from all walks of life; chaotic families, stubborn managers, helpful co-workers, sympathetic customers, cranky drive-thru goers, and sometimes confused optimists wondering if we have any Szechuan Sauce (we don’t) . I’ve learned how to make change (yes it’s taken me this long), how to make fries and stock sauces. I look forward to my paycheck every second Wednesday, and embrace the fact that I no longer have to beg my parents for money. It’s truly a wonderful thing, and even though I don’t plan to pursue a career in fast food, I feel as though I have an advantage going into my career. Overall, the benefits of high school employment are numerous and considerable, and the drawbacks are manageable.