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United Way Blog

Helping teens get the most out of their summer job

Summer jobs are a rite of passage. They teach responsibility and provide a source of income. And they usually start out as an exciting new challenge that kids can’t wait to dive into. And then that first paycheck arrives with a “bigger than expected” chunk removed for taxes, and suddenly the job isn’t as exciting anymore. Here are some tips on finishing strong after motivation starts to wane.

Ask Questions
Some kids are so concerned about pleasing the boss and fitting in, they are afraid to rock the boat by asking questions. But most managers understand that teens need more ramp up time than people with years of experience. Also, teens and young workers are twice as likely to get hurt as adult workers, so it’s really important that they get training on anything new.

Network, Network, Network
Remembering that every job is an opportunity to network is a good way for teens to stay motivated – and you never know who could be a reference (good or bad) in the future. It’s easy to think that a part-time summer gig won’t lead to many connections, so it’s okay to slack off or provide bad customer service, but this could be a costly mistake. A camper’s parent could be the CEO of their dream company.  A restaurant customer could know someone at a school they’d like to attend. Kids should always try to do impressive work no matter how small their job may seem.

Stick With It
Colleges and future employers will look much more favorably on someone who can stick out a commitment – landing a really cool job is less impressive than staying the course and leaving with positive references. They might temporarily give up some freedom or fun, but will gain much more—a paycheck, good habits and the start of a solid work history that will open doors in the future.

Build A Nest Egg
Believe it or not, teens can contribute to a Roth IRA that can later be used tax- and penalty-free to buy a home or pay tuition expenses later in life. A 15-year-old who contributes $3,000 every summer from age 15-22, could see a Roth IRA balance exceeding $30,000 by college graduation, as illustrated in this LA Times article.

The benefits of a summer job – including building a strong work ethic and opening doors in the future – can seem out of reach to a teenager now, but encouraging them to stick with it can pay off in ways they can’t even imagine. Help them hone the skills that will lead to success down the road!


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