Teen Jobs More Than Just Work

The Wall Street Journal (August 21, 2013) reports that less than a third of 16-to-19 year olds had jobs this summer, little changed from last year despite the reported recovery in the economy. Before the recession, more than 40 percent of teens had summer jobs. The disproportionate impact of the recession and subsequent slow recovery on teens and young adults has been widely reported elsewhere as well.

It’s a shame, and not just because it leaves teens with too much time on their hands and not enough non-parental money in their pockets. The biggest benefit teens get from much-maligned fast food and similar jobs is that they learn how to work.

I had a regular role in interviewing college recruits when I was a senior manager with a Big Four accounting firm. The firm generally did not consider candidates with less than a 3.5 GPA, and a 4.0 student was going to walk out with an offer unless he or she came in dressed in a sheep’s pelt. I didn’t win often but I regularly supported candidates with a 3.5 and a couple of summers flipping burgers or who had worked their way through college over 4.0 students who had never held a job.

Flipping burgers may not seem to bear much relevance to auditing balance sheets or cranking out tax returns but a few months at Burger King will teach you to get to work on time. And to dress appropriately, use your manners, work with the public, and not go home until the job is done. You also learn that your boss has bigger concerns than you … and so does everyone else.

I saw more than one brilliant and accomplished student struggle with these concepts, and the lesson would have been much cheaper at minimum wage. I also saw more than a few pick these things up quickly but for workplace common sense the burger flipper was always the safe bet.

I sincerely hope we are not losing summer and entry level jobs as a regular rite of passage. If so, it won’t be just teens and young adults that pay but their future employers.

About the Author
Brent Morrison is the founding principal at Morrison. To get in touch with Brent, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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