This year I got my first paid job. Not the type where my parents promised to pay me to clean my room, but a real job with a schedule and an actual paycheck. As a code coach at our local coding school, I was tasked each week with teaching kids ages 8 to 12, how to write important programming code in Java and Python. I also provided skills that helped them learn the tricks and sometimes, cheats at the Minecraft or Roblox Camps.
For me, getting a job in high school meant earning my own money to buy the new Yeezy Boost shoes that I was eyeing online. Since it was my money, anything I earned could go straight towards what I wanted it to and I did not have to get permission from my parents. While my original motive for my job was to save up for exclusive sneakers, looking back, there were countless valuable skills I learned from working, far beyond the money I made.
The biggest lesson I learned was mastering my time management skills. Working as a code coach meant that I had to immediately structure my life to balance work, school, tennis and my social life. I was being held accountable for working for my boss, completing my schoolwork from my teachers and parents and maintaining a rigorous tennis schedule by my coach. I also wanted to be able to spend time with my friends and go hang out at the local Chick-fil-A and Starbucks. This required me to take ownership of my time and use it very wisely. I could no longer sleep in on the weekends or take long naps because I had to map out my time strategically.
Another skill I learned was professional skills. Part of my job required me to interact with young kids and their parents. I had to develop a mature way to talk to these clients. I had to be engaging and personable in order to build and maintain a strong connection with them. Friendliness, a positive attitude and interpersonal skills were crucial when talking with young children and providing progress reports for their parents. I was required to stay patient as I listened and answered questions. As a code coach, I developed a professional demeanor that I believe will serve me well in future jobs.
One obvious benefit I learned while working as a code coach was financial independence and the value of a dollar. I understood how many hours it took me to earn enough money for a pair of exclusive Yeezy Boosts or Nike Travis Scott sneakers. Quite often, my scheduled hours were canceled because of low enrollment in a class, a last-minute cancellation or a child’s illness. When that happened, I wouldn’t get paid and the coding school didn’t make money either. This job was great for granting me a first-hand look at entrepreneurship and was key to showing me the struggles of a small business. I found myself wondering how the business paid for rent or utilities when classes got canceled. Did the owner even have a salary? How did the school survive?
A quick Google search provided me with some scary statistics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 5 new businesses fail in their first year. That’s a 20% failure rate and about 65% of small businesses do not make it past 10 years. These numbers are fairly consistent and not a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so why is the failure rate so high?
Was it the product people were selling or was the service bad? Maybe it’s the location, or the business does not know how to operate or treat employees fairly. There has to be more behind this high failure rate.
There are probably many reasons why my code school was continuing to thrive, but as a teen, I was able to see some of the challenges faced by the small business owner too. Since the code school relied on high school and college students to teach the classes, employee turnover was a big issue as students graduated and moved on to bigger and better opportunities.
For me, the job was a valuable learning and earning opportunity. I gained more independence and learned priceless life lessons in time management, professionalism, and the inner workings of a small business.