In most cases, only certain jobs are open to teenagers. In most cases, you're not going to hold a highly skilled position or even one that involves a lot of training.
That doesn't mean the jobs available to teens are unimportant. In many cases, these positions are thankless but rewarding. This is work that makes a difference even if many of the people who benefit take the workers for granted.
Holding one of these entry-level jobs as a teenager can be very important, as working from a young age can teach habits that follow through the rest of your career. Here, three Motley Fool investors share their recommendations for what jobs they believe a teenager should at least give a shot.
A low-status job
Selena Maranjian: One kind of job that's great for every teen to have is what I'll call a low-status one. What I mean is a job that those heading to college might not envision themselves doing, such as cleaning homes or offices, waiting tables, working at a fast-food restaurant, factory work, telemarketing, or working at a call center.
Why is it good for teens (or anyone, for that matter) to have such a job? Well, it can be a real eye opener. Toiling at those kinds of jobs for a while can give teens perspective that will be helpful for the rest of their lives. For example, they might learn how invisible many people become when working such jobs. If you spend time as a janitor, you might see that lots of people don't make eye contact with you and generally ignore you.
If you spend time waiting tables, you might see how hard the work can be and how obnoxious and disrespectful many customers can be. Doing factory work can help teens appreciate how hard it can be to work long stretches on your feet and how regimented such a work day can be.
Those who have toiled at such jobs for at least a little while may end up with more empathy and respect for those who are in them long-term. They will also be more likely to appreciate better jobs when they land them later in life. (By the way -- as soon as teens start earning money, they'd do well to start investing a little, too!)
A customer-service representative
Maurie Backman: One summer during high school, I worked as a customer-service representative at a financial institution, and while it was one of the worst jobs I've ever had, it also taught me a lot. Before that job, I was never really one for respecting authority.
Case in point: Teachers didn't tend to like me, even though I was generally a good student. Had I not taken that job, I perhaps would've entered early adulthood without appreciating the importance of treating others reverently, even if forced to do so.
In addition, working a customer service job helped me perfect the art of diplomacy and improve my interpersonal skills. There were plenty of times when I had to appease customers who were clearly in the wrong, but I learned to do so in a manner that didn't make them feel small. This lesson came in handy in many jobs I held down the line.
The basics of customer service come into play in so many different industries and facets of life. Even now, as a freelance writer, I make sure to treat the people who hire me -- my customers -- with the utmost respect, because frankly, they deserve it, just as I deserve respect when I'm the customer paying for a service. And I'm glad I picked up those skills as an impressionable teen, as opposed to a more stubborn adult.
A camp counselor
Daniel B. Kline: As a teenager, I worked my way up from counselor-in-training (CIT) to being part of camp management in the summer before I turned 21. In many ways, camp counselor is the most responsible job you can get before being old enough to drive.
At the camp where I worked, kids stayed overnight -- some for a month, most for two. During my CIT year and my first few counselor years, I had some of our youngest campers in our bunk. That meant having responsibility not just for the kids' enjoyment, but also for their health and safety. Young boys, as you may know, don't have the best hygiene, so I had to make sure teeth were brushed, showers were taken, and sheets were changed.
As a camp counselor, you serve multiple constituents. You have to take care of the kids while making sure they have a good time, but you also have a responsibility to their parents. That means that, in effect, you're also doing customer service, sometimes for very nervous customers.
Over the course of my teenage years, I gradually got more responsibility at camp, and age never really mattered that much. Yes, it was a summer job, but the limited duration didn't make the lessons learned any less valuable. Working at camp taught me that there are no excuses when it comes to meeting your responsibilities. I also learned how to talk to adults and that while the customer is not always right, you have to operate as if he or she is.
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