Working while attending middle school can be great for your kids. Earning money and feeling useful and appreciated can build confidence in teens. A recent report from the Department of Counselor Education at North Carolina State University stated, "Middle school students need to become more aware of careers, explore their career options, and understand how the choices they make in school will affect their future." Getting real work experience can do just that, even if the only lesson teens learn is what they don't want to do when they grow up.
Warning: Don't let your teen get carried away. Your kids might be so excited to have their own money that they might go overboard. Put a limit on the amount of hours your kid can work in a week. Teens in middle school should start out slow, working eight to ten hours a week. If your teens handle work well and their grades don't suffer, increase the hours; however, most middle schoolers shouldn't work more than fifteen hours per week while also attending school.
Since teens often don't start working until high school, middle schoolers might need your help finding ways to make money.
Follow these steps to help your middle schooler find a job:
Check local job boards.
Since many employers won't hire employees under the age of sixteen, middle schoolers really need to think outside the box when looking for a job. Grocery stores, libraries, and community centers often have bulletin boards advertising traditional jobs for young people: babysitting, newspaper delivery, cutting grass, shoveling snow, and pet sitting, for example. If you can't find people looking for these services, have your teens make signs showing the services they offer and post them on local job boards.
Tip: Even though some employers hire only those applicants who are over sixteen, it never hurts to ask. Employers might be willing to take a chance on a younger teen with the right attitude and a good work ethic. This strategy works best at smaller businesses where the hiring agent is likely to be the owner and has more power over hiring decisions.
Talk to my teen about starting a small business.
Not many kids can call themselves entrepreneurs, but certainly more than you'd think. Diane Keng launched her third Web start-up while still in high school. Ben Cathers was twelve years old when he started his first business. Encourage your kid to think big, but also realistically: What skills does your kid have? What is sorely needed in your hometown (or in a certain age group if your kid wants to build a virtual business)? How much time can your kid devote to this business? What are the start-up costs? Help your kid, but don't take over. Even if the business fails, this can be a huge learning experience for your teen. Make sure your kid learns as much as possible at sites like YoungBiz.com, which specializes in helping teens become entrepreneurs.
Have my kid work for me.
Do you ever wish you could get some help with mindless paperwork, tedious yard work, or repetitive housework? If you can afford it, why not hire your kid to help? You won't have to search for a reliable employee, and you'll know your kid is safe working right by your side.
Warning: You might not want to try this if you know you will most likely let your kid slack. Your teen will miss out on all the lessons that working for pay teaches. If you want to keep it in the family, but you know you're not strong enough to be your kid's boss, ask aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends, and grandparents. Your middle schooler could make a business out of working for people you know.
Give my kid some tips on networking.
One of the best ways to find a job these days is to know the right people. Even people who might not seem to hold the key to the world's greatest position might know the person who does. Kelley Robertson, author of Stop, Ask, and Listen, explains, "Networking does produce results. The more people know about you…, and the more they trust you, the greater likelihood they will either work with you or refer someone else to you."
Teach your kids to let everyone know that they're looking for a paying job. Another key to networking is to give as much as you get. Many companies and professionals are looking for a savvy kid to tell them what young consumers really think. Teach your teens to speak up and show how resourceful they can be. Make sure your teen knows that networking is more about putting oneself out there than asking for favors.
Look online for opportunities.
This is a good opportunity to give your child a lesson in onsite credibility: review the rules about safe job hunting on the Internet, and tell your teen to let you check out any opportunities before sending personal information.
Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, well-known recruiting experts and consultants, reported a rise in online hiring in 2010 on hiring sites such as Careerbuilder.com and also through company Web sites. Organizations, such as teens4hire.org, connect teenagers and job opportunities. Just remember that the Internet is also filled with scams, so use this opportunity to teach your kids lessons about whom they can trust.
Tip: Just because you're looking online doesn't mean you shouldn't be scanning the papers, too. If you get the newspaper delivered to your house, have your kid look through the classifieds every morning. In fact, your kid should be scanning the whole paper. Every opportunity is not presented in the classified section. If you see a community event being planned, visit the planning site to see if they are hiring help.
Have my kid explore a new career option once a month.
It's great that your middle schooler wants to work, but as a parent, you need to make sure your child learns from the work, too. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) provides a tween- and teen-friendly Web site about working for its agency. Young people interested in science or green technology can learn about the jobs they can get when they're older. Your teen probably isn't qualified to work as an engineer, but just learning about the career will help your teen understand why paying attention in science class is important, how working part-time at a recycling plant now can look good on a resume later, and that internships are available to college students who want to work in the field of green technology. All of this information might get your teens thinking about careers they never knew existed.
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