Employment: a benefit or a burden?

Imagine the bell rings at 2:16 and as your friends mingle in the hallways discussing their plans for the evening, you sprint out to your car. Instead of driving home to relax, start your schoolwork, or practice for sports, you rush to your job for a five hour shift.
With summer approaching, many high school students are searching for employment. Liberty Career Specialist Judy Co offers advice for these students.
“It’s the best thing you can do, you know. You really grow a lot as a person, you feel more responsible, and it’s very rewarding to have a job. And it’s great to have your own money,” Co said. “Jobs give you real world experience. I think you gain a perspective of what it’s like to be an employee compared to being a student.”
Junior Laurie Willoughby agrees, explaining that high school jobs help develop the skills required to be successful in the workforce. Willoughby is employed at Sushi Café.
“My current job is the very first job that I’ve ever applied for, and I know that my interview was absolutely horrible,” Willoughby said. “But now I feel like I could sit in an interview and present myself in so much more of a confident way.”
Co describes her own experience with working as a high school student as an opportunity to explore different career possibilities.
“I worked at a vet clinic and it was a great job because I would come home at dinner time and tell my whole family about the operations that I helped assist,” Co said. “They would always call me into the operating room and I learned a lot about that.”
According to Co, jobs can prepare high schoolers for future careers, as they allow students to assess their interests and refine abilities that may benefit them upon graduation.
“I think that you can develop skills and strengths in a job, which you might not have the same opportunities as a student because it’s asking different things of you,” Co said.
Many students can acquire skills such as money handling or time management from their jobs. But junior Tiffany Yamasaki, who is currently employed at Target, has learned a different lesson: quick-thinking.
“I’ve learned to ‘wing-it’ when I’m talking to customers. They ask random questions and I think ‘oh gosh, where is that in the store? I think it’s over there,’” Yamasaki said. “I point them in the direction of it if I don’t know the exact aisle number. That’s always hard to remember where to find every single item because it’s such a big store.”
Junior Max Sands, who works as a German Car Specialist, comments on how skills from jobs can transfer to other situations.
“Students can relate to trying to adapt to difficult teachers, but having a job is different,” Sands said. “It builds a skill to be in an actual workplace with people that you need to take time to adapt to. You can transition that skill back to dealing with people in everyday life, regardless of where you are.”
The skills gained by employees are unique for each job. As an aspiring teacher, senior Kayla Wiscomb works at an after-school care program at Apollo Elementary.
“You need to be able to connect with all of the kids,” Wiscomb said. “You need to know how to interact and deal with the problems they’re having. Even if it seems like the smallest thing in the world, to them it seems like it’s the biggest deal so you have to take everything super seriously.”
While her job provides practice for success as a future teacher, Wiscomb also finds working to be a rewarding experience.
“It’s really fun when kids try something new for the first time and you are there to help them, like when kindergarteners first try to do the monkey bars,” Wiscomb said. “They get so excited and those little things are the best part of my job.”
Sands also enjoys his job, particularly the reactions he receives when driving high-end cars.
“We work on Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes, so when someone brings in a really nice car and I have to wash it, it’s fun to take it to the car wash,” Sands said. “Everyone stares at you because you’re a 17 year-old in a $120,000 car.”
For Willoughby, working is pleasurable because of the individuals she meets.
“My favorite part about my job is the people that I work with because they’re a lot different from the people who I would usually hang around with at school,” Willoughby said. “I also like interacting with customers because everyone is different.”
Despite the multitude of possible benefits, Co says that having a job is not the most practical decision for every student. She emphasizes that if students are overloaded with academics or extremely stressed, a job should not be their first priority.
“I think it’s really important to take care of yourself first,” Co said. “Students should not be staying up super late for a job because they become exhausted, and that exhaustion shows up in other places in their life.”
Similarly, Willoughby says that although she enjoys her job, it can be a source of anxiety that affects her personal life.
“Sometimes having a job adds stress, because if you mess up on a task then you feel like you did something entirely wrong,” Willoughby said. “It puts a damper on your mood for the rest of the day. Sometimes when I get home, I’ll be really upset and then I have to calm myself down before I start doing homework.”
For students who work during the school year, the extra responsibility of a job can make it challenging to balance other commitments.
“At the beginning of the school year, I thought I was able to handle the same schedule that I was working over the summer, which was four days a week,” Willoughby said. “But I realized that I couldn’t because my grades really started plummeting. So I eventually had to tell my boss that I had to cut back my hours, which wasn’t easy.”
Along with interfering with schoolwork, jobs can also make it tough to socialize with friends.
“I missed out on a lot of stuff when I was working,” Sands said. “It’s been especially hard this year during my junior year because it’s really stressful getting home late.”
Willoughby echoes this statement, explaining the difficulty of prioritizing work and school.
“It’s hard to go from school to having to focus on homework when you just want to relax, and then go to a four or five hour shift knowing that you still have a ton of stuff to do,” Willoughby said. “That’s also a big burden because sometimes I wish I had more time to do things, where if I wasn’t working I would have all the time in the world.”
In order to reduce the strain of this transition from school to work, Co emphasizes to students the necessity of finding a job they can enjoy.
“If you hate the work, that’s not something to continue,” Co said. “Find the thing that you like. Find the thing that feeds your soul. I don’t think that you should necessarily be in a job that you are unhappy in.”
Overall, however, Co encourages high school students to pursue job opportunities.
“You don’t lose anything from having a job,” Co said. “You may lose a choice of playing video games or something, but it will help you know yourself better, and that’s what high school is about.”