The Upside of Working a Job in High School

"Subway" by Allen McGregor

Before I proceed, I would like to acknowledge my genuine gratefulness for my circumstantial privileges; I have a stable education, a roof over my head, supportive people around me and am in no way taking those for granted. 

After having warily inquired about my college application progress, my teacher widened her eyes in surprise upon hearing about my acceptance into my first-choice school. “To be completely honest with you, she said, when I saw your baggy sweaters and tired eyes this fall, I didn’t think you would make it.”

What she couldn’t see was my part-time job, my evening subway rides home and my meager sleep hours. This is definitely one of the aggregated frustrations that come with being a working student in a community where most teens aren’t financially self-reliant.

A large amount of my ‘free-time’ is dedicated to my work, which makes my social life less bustling as most of my friends’, not to mention that it is an added stress to my high schooler life. However, I’ve discerned a few great advantages that may not seem so evident at first glance.

  1. Building a resume: Being habituated to being employed at a younger age is a great head-start for building a resume. Developing new skills and having reliable references early on can show future hirers you have good work ethics.
  2. Time management: Personally, not having any time to spare for procrastination was a huge benefit I found working gave me. With the additional responsibility of a schedule that required me to follow distinct time slots, my job helped me improve my time management skills.
  3. Budgeting: I’ve never taken money as a given and still have to hold back on some expenses most of my classmates wouldn’t have to think twice before indulging in. However, working a job helped me reassert the notion that money is something you need to secure through your own efforts. Holding my first monthly paycheck was one of the most satisfying feelings I’d ever felt.
  4. Confidence: As someone who is quite reserved, having to independently navigate through interviews and communicate with colleagues and clients forced me to ‘put myself out there.’ I had to grow to be more self-assured. Being treated like an adult at my workplace rose my awareness of my own strengths.
  5. Recognizing the “real” world: This may sound like an oxymoron, but working a job is often my own way of taking a break. In a place where my interactions aren’t with peers, teachers or family members, I get to take a step back and remember that most of my worries are only temporary or overestimated. Similarly to a hobby, my job allows me to direct all of my focus on something that separates myself from my personal life.

I feel lucky that my source of income is a place where I genuinely enjoy what I do, and feel safe and respected there. I definitely matured and learned a lot from my job and would honestly recommend making some paper if you have the means to do so.

Photo: Allen McGregor

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