"I need a job."
It is one of the most common expressions heard amongst teens. In fact, I hear it just about every day.
Whether it's walking through the hallways, sitting idly in class, or hanging out with friends, this simple four-letter sentence gets thrown around in everyday conversation.
As a junior in high school, my peers and I have reached the age where employment seems to no longer be an option, but rather a requirement. My question is, quite simply, why?
In today's economy, where it is a constant struggle for many adults to find jobs, there seems to be two main characteristics of teenagers in the work force; those who need jobs, and those who want jobs.
Teenagers who absolutely need jobs are, in most cases, individuals who's families are in desperate need of support. These kids have no option when it comes to getting a job because they have to make money for their families in order to make ends meet.
Interestingly enough, these aren't the kids that you will hear saying, "I need a job."
Teenagers who are forced to get a job due to their economic standing are going to find ways to get one at all costs. On the other hand, teens who constantly stress over getting a job are those who feel obligated to find employment.
I happen to know many teenagers who directly represent this characteristic, and I am one of them.
Last year, I was pressured by my family, peers, and coaches into believing that I needed a job. At the time, my family was in no desperate need of economic aid. I was not one of those teenagers who needed a job. However, I was being severely influenced by those around me and came to the conclusion that I really did need a job. I guess you can say i was "suckered" into feeling obligated to find employment.
After weeks of searching and applying for jobs around the Peninsula, I found one. However, I took a different approach to searching for a job than most teenagers do. Instead of trying to find any kind of job that would pay, I decided to pursue a job that would suit my interests. For about nine years now, my favorite hobby has been playing golf. Therefore, I applied for three different jobs that strictly pertained to golf. I was hired as a caddy at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo in June of 2011.
Being a caddy was not your average teenage employment gig. While most of my peers were working on a daily basis in restaurants, clothing shops, or summer camps, I was caddying, twice a week, four hours a day, for wealthy and relatively elderly men and women at one of the Bay Area's most prestigious country club's.
Being a caddy gave me decent pay (with generous tips) and opened the door to an opportunity that I feel lucky to have gotten. The members liked me at the PGCC, and this translated to the management recognizing me as a impressionable employee. In early September of 2011 I was promoted to the bag room.
Now I had a job in which I worked about four hours a day on school days and up to six hours on the weekends. I was lucky enough to maintain steady employment during the school year through January of 2012. In February I hit a rough patch.
Being a high school junior means AP classes, SAT's, and ACT's. I could no longer handle the stresses of balancing work and school. I was signed up for an SAT prep course throughout February, took the SAT in early March, had hours of homework every day, and was cramming my studying time to the last minute. I was falling into the classic pressures and stresses of a high school junior. As a result of my stress and busyness, I had to inform my boss that I would not be available to work until Summer.
The PGCC called me a few weeks ago inquiring about summer employment. As we collaboratively mapped out my schedule for this summer, we ran into conflict. This summer I am spending a week volunteering at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, spending five days in Los Angeles with family, and going on a two-week vacation in Hawaii. Because of my inability to commit to the job for the whole summer, I was politely laid off.
As I approach the end of my junior year, only three weeks away from summer, I am unemployed. It's a strange feeling, to be honest. I had maintained such a steady job for so long and all of a sudden I am back to ground zero.
Over the past week I have been reflecting on the opportunities I have been given in the past in regard to employment. I have been lucky enough to gain valuable experiences through teenage employment. There are so many teenagers out there who don't have jobs, myself included. But maybe we don't need jobs.
For those of us who want jobs because we feel obligated to, we need to look outside of this apparent obligation. The primary benefit of teenage employment is not the money, it is the experience.
No teenager should feel obligated to find a job. There are plenty of other ways to find work experience. For example, I am shying away from employment this summer and looking into internships and volunteer work in order to gain a wider range of experiences.
I am not discouraging teenage employment. In fact, I highly encourage it. However, getting a job is not the only way to gain work experience.
The struggle for teens to maintain steady employment will persist. Kids will lose jobs and get new ones. But there is no need to panic. Teenagers must do whatever they can learn from these experiences. For these experiences have the ability to further self-development and provide valuable life-lessons.