"Why do you want the job?" Anyone who's made it through an interview for an uneventful part-time job has certainly squirmed through this infamous interview question. For most people, the first thing that springs to mind is "I NEED MONEY", but most people quickly learn that this is not the answer that will land you the job.
No matter how brainless or backbreaking your part-time job may be, the benefits go way beyond your pocketbook. Don't believe it? Here we take a look at some of perks you can enjoy courtesy of your low-wage efforts. You may be surprised to learn that you'll be reaping the rewards long after your paycheck is spent.
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According to a 2005 book by Jeylan T. Mortimer, high school students who work, even as much as part-time, are better off in many ways than students who sit out of the work force longer, and one of the key areas where working students excel is in confidence. After all, confidence, by definition, really just means an ability to rely on yourself. In order to build true confidence, you have to put yourself into unfamiliar territory and learn how to survive and thrive there. And no matter how simple your summer job may seem, rest assured there will be a confidence-boosting challenges to overcome, whether it's learning a new skill, surviving a stressful work environment or learning to deal with a hard-driving boss or a nasty coworker. (For more on this, see Dealing With 10 Coworker Personality Conflicts.)
- Time Management
Hanging around the house all summer may be a great way to relax, but it won't contribute to your time-management skills. Working will – and this is one skill that will help you both in college and as an adult. Just take a look at the self-help department of any bookstore – the number of the books on "time management" are a sign that you don't want to enter adulthood without this skill under your belt. All time-management really means is deciding what's important to accomplish in a day and learning how to juggle those things to make it happen. This means prioritizing, planning and learning to get a realistic sense of how much you can actually accomplish. The best way to develop this skill is through practice; if you have loads of free time, you'll never have to flex your time-management muscles.
- A Leg Up
While a part-time job at a burger joint may not give you a ton of relevant experience for your resume, at least you'll have something to put on it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate for teens is currently 26.4%. This means that one in five teens is not going to be working at all this summer. When it's time to apply for a real job, you don't want to be the one with an empty resume. Sure, it might hurt your pride a little to fight for that paper hat, but you'll be ahead of a good chunk of other people your age (your competition!), and down the road, you'll be glad you did it. That said, with part-time jobs being so scarce this year, if you can't land one, you can still work on filling out your resume by getting a volunteer position. (For more insight, see Are The Volunteer Corps Right For You? and 10 Phrases You Should Ban from Your Resume.)
- Getting to Know You
Maybe you're already sure about what you want to do as a future career, but most people go through a lot of indecision and change their minds many times before settling on a career long term. Getting out into the workforce as a barista at your local coffee shop may not help you determine what it'll be like to be a doctor, but you will find out whether you like to work with people and whether you can work quickly and efficiently under pressure. And you might even discover something you didn't know – such as that you really like working with numbers. Reading about the skills you'll need to get a future job is not even in the same league as testing your mettle in the real world. If you're wondering what your skills are, working a couple of part-time summer jobs should help you zero in on your likes and dislikes, evaluate your strengths and work on your weaknesses. (Find out what skills you really need in The 7 Most Universal Job Skills.)
- Broaden Your Social/Networking Circle
Chances are, you spend a lot of time with people your own age. In a job, you are likely to be working with a range of very different people. This isn't only good for your social skills, it can also pack a powerful punch on your resume. After all, you'll need references all throughout your career, so it's a good idea to make an effort to connect with the people you meet along the way. And when future interviewers start calling your references, you can bet that an older co-worker or supervisor will already have the skills to convey your strengths to the interviewer in a professional way. (Read more tips in 4 Career Networking Tips That Work.)
The Bottom Line
If you haven't started looking for a job yet this summer, keep in mind that your job search is about more than earning some extra cash – it could give you the competitive edge you need to get more and better jobs in the future. And once you've worked for minimum wage, you'll be ready to appreciate just how much a better job is worth.