For teens, regular summer jobs may beat side gigs
Teens looking for summer work may think “side hustles” and social media are the only ways to make money.
“What we hear from a lot of young people is that they’d rather try to start a business than have traditional jobs,” says Ed Grocholski, chief marketing officer of Junior Achievement USA, an organization that helps young people prepare for career success.
It’s easy to see why teens are excited. Social media influencers appear to be cashing in on their images and hobbies, and side hustle culture makes it look more feasible than ever to market and sell a product or service.
But what teens might not realize is that early entrepreneurial endeavors usually take time to take off. Put another way, they don’t provide steady pay.
But traditional jobs do, and for teenagers looking to eventually be their own boss online or off, such inperson work can lay beneficial groundwork.
Here are some options for working-age teens and what lessons they could learn on the job.
Restaurants remain a quintessential employer of students on break.
“We have more than 1.9 million teens on payrolls in restaurants,” says Michelle Korsmo, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.
It’s an excellent training ground for young people, she says. From food safety and customer service to problem-solving and time management, employees who want to be challenged will be.
Korsmo says opportunity or need can arise quickly. That could mean moving from host to server or chef to fill an opening, or volunteering to pick up trash in the parking lot when nobody else will.
“Say ‘yes,’ have a great attitude, be willing to learn,” she says. “It doesn’t take very long before you gain in responsibilities and in ability to make more money.”
While a side hustle can be a solitary experience, businesses that hire teens — like the local pool, car wash or grocery store — bring people together.
Dan Horan manages a Wegmans grocery store in Pittsford, New York. He says the young people who come to work for him get a sense for the scale of the operation.
“It takes 650 people to put this place together every single day,” he says. “There’s a lot of teamwork involved in what we do.”
Horan describes the store’s staff as a support system of workers depending on one another and feeling comfortable to raise their hand for help.
“We’re here for what people have going on inside and outside of work,” he says. “It’s a safe place to go.”
Young workers will find communication in the workplace is an essential and organic experience.
The in-person interaction is more important since the pandemic, Grocholski says. “Being around people, being in a team environment builds an entire skill set that frankly is kind of by the wayside, and is really critical for young people to achieve their potential.”
Aagna Patel, a former Junior Achievement member and now a college student in Texas, went to work as an accounting intern at a manufacturing firm in Houston the summer after her senior year of high school. She saw it as an opportunity to learn from the life experience of her teammates.