This application season as I’m helping students prepare their resumes and activities sections on their applications, I’m noticing that probably fewer than half of my advisees (primarily high school students from the middle and upper middle class have paid work experience.
This is a troubling trend to me for a couple of reasons: first, it may indicate that homework loads and course curricula have become so challenging for many students that they have little time for anything else outside of school work; and second, many students are missing out on a vital opportunity to develop responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Increasingly, colleges and universities are recognizing the value of paid work experience among their applicants. An article in the education section of About.com mentions several reasons why admissions committees favor applicants who have held jobs including learning teamwork and collaborative skills and gaining perspective on the labor market.
Several of the new University of California Personal Insight Questions Writing could be answered convincingly by describing one’s leadership development on a summer job or an after school babysitting “gig.” Personal Statements reflecting on work—whether learning new skills or learning to interact with fellow employees and managers—might also help demonstrate an applicant’s maturing attitude or narrate how the writer learned to deal with a difficult customer or boss.
As your teenager contemplates his or her extra-curricular activities for the next season, checking out part-time work or volunteer positions might be a good idea. Also, January through March is a good period to secure a summer job such as camp counseling or paid internships. Another way for teens to gain workplace skills is through volunteering in an after school tutoring program, like Healthy Cities or Project Read or signing up to be a volunteer coach through the PAL Athletic League. Many short time assignments are also available through Hands On Bay Area.
And this holiday season there will be plenty of short-term retail jobs available for teens with some sales experience.