Ten Life Skills You Learn by Having a High School Job

by Pam Molnar

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 20 percent of today’s high school students work year-round, part time jobs. This has been on a steady decline since 1979 when 58 percent of high school students were employed.

Advocates in support of working teens believe today’s high school students who don’t work are at a disadvantage if they wait to get their first job after college. These ten life skills are not taught in a traditional classroom, but can only be acquired with on the job training.


1. Time management

With 168 hours in a week, you will figure out how to fit in classroom time, homework, sports, social and family commitments. You will not only learn how to work smarter and more efficiently, but also learn to prioritize and discover that it’s ok to say no to the things that are not that important to you.


2. The value of a dollar earned 

When you see something that you really want – from a Starbucks coffee to a car of your own – you feel a combination of pride and happiness to know that you worked for the money and get to spend it guilt free.  


3. How to talk to strangers 

The customers you encounter at your place of employment will not be as kind or forgiving as your grandmother. They are total strangers who need your help to get them something or solve a problem. You will learn to appreciate the patient ones and to gently calm and redirect the difficult ones.


4. To work with people you don’t like 

This isn’t a class assignment where you choose your partner or sports activity where you have known the other players for 10 years. These are people who may handle things differently than you do, who may have different morals or who do not work as hard as you do.


5. Having a job means work 

Work is not always fun, even for people who love their jobs. Paperwork, maintenance and cleaning is part of any job. You will learn to do it efficiently so you don’t have to do it over.


6. How to work under pressure 

Stress on the job comes from the never satisfied customer, a rush order, broken equipment, a co-worker who stands around and sometimes, all of that at once. The trick is to not take it personally as you work through the problem at hand.


7. Keep your cool 

Although you would like to scream “Hurry up and decide lady! There is a line of people behind you,” it will probably not go over well. Instead, you learn to take a deep breath and work with the customer until she is satisfied. The same goes for co-worker conflicts. A rational conversation about the issue will be more effective.


8. Treat people like you want to be treated 

My son recently came home and complained about the people who don’t tip. Regardless of the fact that a large tip jar sits by the register in many establishments, a lot of people ignore them, thinking they are already paying enough for the product or service. When you rely on tips as a part of your pay, you find that you become a better tipper when you are out.


9. The skills required at the job 

Depending on where you work, the skills you pick up may be used later in life. You will learn how to count change without relying on the register, what temperature food needs to be in for the safe zone or how to pack and stack boxes so they won’t shift in transit.


10. Hard work pays off 

Giving 100% at work may get you a raise, an opportunity to advance or learn new skills and even get the better shifts. The work ethic you develop at your first job will shape the type of employee you will be in the future.

Pam Molnar is a writer, business owner and mother of three. Pam, as well as her husband and kids, all navigated school and sports alongside a part time job in high school.

How a Part Time Job Prepares you for College and Beyond

Having a part time job shows college admissions that you can handle the extra responsibility that comes with a job. You have proven that you can balance your time with your school work, preparing you for the independence of college life. Working with co-workers and irrational customers will be a bonus when trying to negotiate with roommates or in other group settings.

If working in high school was more of a necessity instead of a way to feed your Starbucks habit, it will show you are serious about your education since you have some skin in the game. The Common App allows you to list part time jobs under activities, in case you had to give up some extracurriculars to work.

If you were lucky enough to work in your field of study during high school, for example, in a veterinary clinic, you will probably have a jump start on your classmates. But even if you just held a job flipping burgers, you have real work experiences, mistakes and solutions that you can build on for the rest of your life.

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