Many of us remember our first summer job and the sense of pride in getting our first real paycheck. But summer jobs do more than give teens some extra pocket change; they teach valuable lessons about life and responsibility. Even if you give your teen an allowance, the life lessons that come from having to show up on time and do a job that might not always be “fun” prepares teens for the real world. Teens begin to understand that you often have to take a tough, seemingly “menial” job to build your resume for future success.

But I Hate This Job

How many of us worked on the fry grill, cleared tables, or restocked shelves while dreaming about getting to hang out with our friends? Needing to finish a job to earn time to have fun teaches teens the value of delayed gratification: you don’t always get to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. By requiring your teenager to contribute his or her fair share of work to the community at large, you set in motion a strong work ethic.

Teaching Life Skills

Does your teen know how to fill out a job application? Some teen show up without the phone numbers of references or don’t know their social security number. Take a few moments to prepare your teen for a typical summer job search.

What Type of Job Is Best?

If your teen has a particular interest, they can seek jobs in that area. For example, if your teen plans to go to veterinary school, they could look for summer jobs working in veterinary hospitals or animal shelters. If your teen plans to work in hotel management, a summer job as a bellboy could be a good start.

However, it isn’t necessarily important for the job to match your teen’s long-term career goals. The most important things they will learn from a first job are:

  1. The importance of showing up and doing a job well, no matter what that job is
  2. Managing your time so you are at work on time
  3. Dealing with last-minute schedule changes that require you to work more than you expected
  4. Managing the money they take home each week so they understand the value of their work

If your teen is too young to be able to work for a company, they may be able to find work babysitting, mowing lawns, or doing other odd jobs around your neighborhood. You can still use this opportunity to teach job-hunting skills by helping your child create flyers to hand out to neighbors. (Remember to screen these types of jobs carefully to ensure your child’s safety. It is better to allow them to do odd jobs only for people you personally know and trust in your neighborhood.)

If your teen would like a job they can continue part-time during the school year, consider places that offer flexible schedules for students. This will allow your teen to earn some extra cash throughout the year.

Financial Planning Lessons or Fun Money?

Some parents let teens do whatever they want with their summer earnings. However, it is always a good idea to set some guidelines about your teen’s earnings in advance. If you don’t let them know they are expected to pay for half their school clothes in the fall, most likely they won’t save any money during the summer. By setting specific financial goals for them, you help your teen learn that money has real value and that if you don’t control your spending you can end up struggling to pay your bills. Some good ways to teach financial responsibility are:

  1. Set a savings goal (10% a week is a good start) for the summer
  2. Give your teen an incentive to save (e.g., if you save $500 toward your car insurance, you will have driving privileges next year)
  3. Teach them how to create a budget so money doesn’t simply “slip” through their fingers
  4. Lower their allowance or let them know you will be phasing out their allowance so they can take more responsibility for their spending habits
  5. If your child seems to be spending every penny they earn on entertainment, remind them of something they want (e.g., an iPod or video game) and let them know you expect them to save to buy this for themselves.

Remember that one of our main goals as a parent is to teach your child how to succeed independently. By asking your child to begin taking some financial responsibility, you set the stage for economic success in the future.

Where to Find a Great Summer Job

Fast food restaurants, swim clubs, camps, restaurants and retail stores often have seasonal jobs and are happy to fill them with willing teens. But many teens lament the loss of summer vacation. Some of these teens might enjoy a job at a summer camp. There are summer camps throughout the country that need responsible teens to help with activities. Many of these are located in areas of the country that offer strong recreational possibilities: water activities, hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. If your teen is the outdoors type, this could allow them to have an adventure while earning money. Here are some links to websites that post summer and seasonal jobs:

Allen’s Guide to Summer Jobs

Cool Works
Seasons jobs in national parks, summer camps, theme parks and other interesting venues

Summer Jobs
Seasonal jobs at camps, hotels, environmental organizations and more