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Teen Work

No, not team work, though I love how it all rhymes.

As I watch the teens around me get jobs, I'm a bit confused and concerned. Somehow they are getting the message that they need to work to make money, and to take whatever job pays the most.

This concerns me because they are at exactly the right stage of life to do whatever job they want to do. This is the time when they can test out different careers without it having any negative impact on their life, and with the safety net of family.

When I was in high school they had a strict rule (this is why I chose the school actually). After your first semester freshman year you HAD to have an internship. I was an elementary school teacher for two years, a classroom aide with my Spanish teacher (oddly, I stopped thinking she was a ridiculous, mean person then), read to a blind woman, taught a high school class, worked as a video camera operator and other things I can't even remember now. I also volunteered at a wildlife organization, mainly boxing and mailing pamphlets… That stunk.

When I first started leading youth group I was surprised and confused about why the kids were getting jobs in retail. Erin said that was just the way it was. I led a very odd life, most people get retail jobs because they can't get other work. They can't work at a Cable company, Internet provider, organization or whatever, the jobs just aren't there. While I never liked this answer, I generally moved on.

In the past few months though, I'm getting all convicted again. I think it's ridiculous that teens are doing jobs just to make money, instead of exploring their interests, or working in areas that meet their own interests.

One of our teens has been lifeguarding for a few years, loving the job because he can relax a bit but also interact a lot with people. That social part of it all drives him. Then there's another who is working at kids gym (like Little Gym, My Gym or whatever) because she is incredibly passionate about gymnastics. Yet another one is working at an adult gym that he frequents, because working out has really helped align his life (thankfully God is in there too).

Another teen is considering working at Little Gym because she loves dance so much, and they have dance classes for kids. This is in contrast to another girl who takes the same dance classes, and is working at Ledo's. Good work, don't get me wrong, but I know her passion is dance and people, not greeting/hosting.

I have to think that as parents and mentors to these teens, we can do better.

Whenever I hear someone say that there are no jobs open to an individuals' skills, I have to think they're nuts. I worked in cable TV and at an Internet Service Provider for years from elementary school through college. Erin keeps saying that "yeah, but you're weird." She's definitely right. But why can't everyone else be weird then?

Why can't the kid passionate about music get a job a Melodee Music or help an individual instructor track their papers and contact clients? Why can't someone interested in photography work as an assistant to a photographer (our photographer has his daughter and a friend working for him that way, and they seem to enjoy it). Why can't someone who loves to dabble in programming get a job at a development company (if even as an intern)? At my company (unfortunately we are no longer allowed to mention its name) we had high school teens working as Web developers on projects, and they got paid for it.

Now, I admit, for most people it's hard to get jobs like this. I mean, I have no contacts in the music world, and if someone asked me to help get them a job in the industry I'd have to send them to my friend Jess (except that she's stopped teaching too, some lazy excuse about having to go to school) or Daniel (an excelled drum teacher and who runs drum circles… crazy fun).

My point though, is that if you are interested and passionate about an area, you'll already have contacts. I love youth ministry and leading. I also happen to know a BUNCH of youth ministers, many of whom will take on interns (some paid, some not).

Our society has focused all people on the idea that if you have to work, you should work making money. Heck, if all you want is money, go work for Costco, they pay something like $10 an hour and treat all their employees incredibly well. Heck, one of our teens worked in the Pharmacy there for a while, partly because she is pretty passionate about becoming a pharmacist.

We need to drive teens toward companies and jobs which they care something about. It makes no sense to me that we would indoctrinate them into the harsh working world, where you work to make money, not to work your passion (I know many people don't do this, but most of us live this way) when they have a home and family to fall back on. They can have 30 jobs in 30 months and it will mean nothing on their resume after college.

I guess the question I have is this. What are you doing for your kid, to prepare them for their first job? What do you say to the kids who come up to you and tell you what they are doing? Do you listen politely, or challenge them to wonder whether they are in the job they're passionate about?




Cindy said…
I just signed up for the blog backup thingy. I didn't know how to backup a blogger blog, so this is a great service. I have a backup of my old blog, because it had that service.

My first job - I worked at a park. I sat in the office, cleaned the bathrooms, cleaned the park, and was there to answer questions. I loved it, because it just allowed me to relax, be outside and read. My mom got me that job - because she was on the board of the park and rec council.

From there, I got a job at the mall taking opinions. This is how I decided I wanted to major in communications/marketing in school. I wanted to see how the surveys were developed and what was done with the info once it got back to the company.

Then, in college, I did an internship in a market research department of a non-profit, and realized that I hated market research.

But, I did have jobs that I did just for the money - working at a jewelry store, working at the book store. They were to just get me by until I could graduate and get a real job.

I think if people have the motivation, they might seek a job in a field they like, but, most likely, teenagers are looking for what pays the most, and what doesn't suck - ie flipping burgers.

Now, if you are 35 and still going from job to job to job and not really trying to find a career, that person probably needs to rethink a few things.

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