School’s Out, Work’s In?

Frani O’Toole Only 25% of high school students were employed last summer. A similar study found that our parents generation was twice as likely to have summer jobs as teenagers. Is it the recession that’s discouraged our generation from entering the workforce? Has there been a cultural push-back of the standard age for employment? Or do the statistics inaccurately reflect our generation’s employment trends? Either way, examining the issue of summer jobs offers insight into how kids in our generation, including Latin students, are preparing for the future. Our generation, often characterized by social media and technology, approaches the idea of work differently than our predecessors; says Ms. Pleshette, “I do lament, and a lot of colleges lament, that you are part of a generation that hasn’t worked as much as previous generations.” As work is seen to build skills and maturity, Sophomore MJ Porzenheim worries that our disinterest in working could mean “our generation may be growing up not-so-fast.” That said, is it practical to gauge a standard age of employment off of a generation that‘s considerably different from our own?  Whether misleading or motivating, our parents work history often influences our own ideas about employment. MJ, who will be working for the City of Evanston this summer, says “my father started work when he was 14, so I feel like if he did it I can do it, and I don’t like idle time. I’m 16, too, so honestly I think it’s time I get a job.” Though it may be influenced by our parents, the moment we realize “it’s time to get a job” is a product of many factors. It could be financial necessity, self-motivation, or a general interest in a certain field or place of work. Or it could be about college. One of the biggest, omnipresent concerns for students is the college application; when it comes to summer, many of us will question how a summer job or internship may look on a resume. Ms. Pleshette, however, offers some advice to those altering summer plans to boost an application; she says, “I think the best thing you can do with your time is doing something you want to do, doing it well, and being fairly insightful about synthesizing the experience […] it ought to be constructive and it ought to be productive […] I think a lot of high school students feel like theres a game or a plan they need to have, where many times that can be obvious to colleges and not actually that appealing […] I think colleges care not about opportunities kids are given, but what they make of the opportunities. To many the opportunity might be brought about by financial necessity, which Ms. Pleshette says colleges recognize. To Sophomore Erika Marks, who has been working at Christy Webber Farm and Garden Center for several months, the “cash component” was important; realizing that she “needed some sort of cash that’s mine,” Erika began  looking for job opportunities in her area. Since starting her job, however, she has found that “earning money for real work creates an amazing sense of accomplishment. [Working]’s also given me a sense of responsibility, to always put others before me. Sometimes it gets hard when I have a test the next day, but it allows you to learn to manage your time much better.” While Erika is unique in that she works during the school year –a different issue than that of a summer job– the fulfillment she’s found is a common thread amongst employed teens. Internships, like jobs, are skill-building and give nice exposure to the working world. Junior Blaike Young, who has done several internships including one with Gucci, says “internships are a really great way to dabble in a field you’re interested in. It’s easy to conceptualize what you’ll enjoy doing in the workforce, but when you actually go and do those things, sometimes it’s not how you picture it’ll be in your head. When you have real work experience, you start to have a more focused idea of what you actually like.” In my case, an internship with StreetWise magazine this summer will hopefully be an opportunity to explore a field I’m interested in — a field that’s harder for a teenager to break into if expecting a paycheck. Whatever your plans –decided or undecided– for the summer, summer’s a time to grow.  ]]>