- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

As the end of the school year approaches, panic may be setting in for parents whose teen-agers soon will be at loose ends.
One idea is to encourage them to enter the job market. Local employers are so much in need of help that entry-level jobs are plentiful. Part-time work is a good way to learn some of the rules of the work world in jobs where mistakes won't ruin a career.
This is something I learned with help from my father. One of my first summer jobs was as a waitress in a restaurant down the street from my house. The manager was not particularly smart in my 16-year-old mind, I classified him as a full-fledged idiot. My dog was smarter. And cuter. The manager was overweight, unattractive and, amazingly, inclined to flirt and tell dirty jokes. (These were decidedly the days before sexual harassment lawsuits.)
On the Fourth of July, this manager convinced himself that business would be so robust that every waiter and waitress would need to work. We tried to explain that families generally like to watch fireworks on the Fourth and would not be likely to eat out. But no amount of logic would dissuade him from his belief that there would be an army of customers pouring into the restaurant.
By 9:30 p.m., a sorry wait staff surveyed a roomful of empty tables. Only a handful of customers had appeared. Fights broke out over who would serve them. I suggested that the manager send some of us home so the remaining employees could make some money. He vetoed my idea, still confident that a big rush of customers would be entering the door at any minute.
I blew up and told the manager he was stupid. Then, with a dramatic stamp of my foot, I announced that I quit and stormed out of the restaurant quite self-satisfied.
When I got home, I indignantly told my dad the whole story, fully expecting sympathy and a pat on the head. Instead, my dad made me go back to the manager and apologize. Quitting a job was stupid, my dad told me, and displaying such grossly bad behavior was extremely bad judgment.
It was a tough lesson. I hated apologizing. But the manager was kind about it and even admitted I had been right about the overstaffing problem. It was my first lesson in the importance of curbing my temper when disagreeing with a boss. How fortuitous to learn this while working in a job where the stakes were not high.
Some of my colleagues over the years apparently did not have the chance to learn this lesson while serving up steak and potatoes and the consequences were not so pleasant. One friend mouthed off to an editor about an assignment he felt was beneath his abilities. He ended up working the night shift for a year.
Another benefit of summer jobs is the chance to learn something about a career. Even if the actual job is dull, teens can get exposure to a company that seems interesting, and work alongside people who are doing work a teen thinks he or she would enjoy.
It is easiest to find career-oriented jobs by talking to friends or family members in the field of interest. In a case like this, employment experts recommend that parents make the initial introduction but leave the rest of the interview up to the teen. Don't expect teens to learn any lessons if they are not interested in a job, even if a parent thinks it would be valuable.
Here are some tips for helping teens get the most out of a first job:
Encourage prompt arrivals. This is a lesson that should be evident after attending school and sports functions, but the workplace can be unforgiving if an employee is habitually late. It works best to explain this responsibility in terms of how a person's tardiness affects the operation and the schedules of other people.
Keep an eye out for overwork. Many teens find it difficult to say no when asked to take on extra work, and this can lead to long hours that may not be healthy. If you suspect this is happening, help the child find a way to deal with the problem. Parents should intervene only as a last resort.
Encourage saving. It is fun to have a first paycheck, but take-home pay can evaporate quickly once turned into cash that is readily available for movies and new outfits. Unless there are severe financial constraints, parents should take an advisory role in helping teens decide what to do with their money. Help them set up savings or checking accounts and discuss a budget that allows some money for spending and sets aside the rest as savings.
Have a question about work or family finances? Get in touch with Anne Veigle at 202/636-3014 or by e-mail ([email protected]).

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide