Two young servers are holding trays of food.

(HS Insider)

Opinion

Opinion: After-school jobs are the best extracurricular activity

The benefits of after-school jobs are especially invaluable in the aftermath of the pandemic.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/rishivridha/" target="_self">Rishi Vridhachalam</a>

Rishi Vridhachalam

September 20, 2022

Imagine you barely made it to your 8 a.m. chemistry class when suddenly you are paged overhead to clean up vomit in the hallway. Or, when you are in the cafeteria chatting with friends, you have to leave immediately to help out in the kitchen.

How about when you are intently watching the clock during a seemingly interminable hour of math, but then the teacher demands that you stay an extra period? Seems outlandish? The stuff of nightmares?

Actually, it’s very much of a reality in the world of jobs where real responsibility and unpredictability rule the day. 

The percentage of teens who are employed has gradually decreased over the years, from a high of 50% in the 1980s to about 30% today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the pandemic has made the benefits of an after-school job even more important.

For many students, social interactions and common spaces ceased to exist due to quarantines, online classes, and health concerns. But those are crucial experiences for adolescents and teenagers in preparation for adulthood.

A job in many ways makes up for those deficiencies. They have to answer to a boss. They have to work with difficult coworkers. They have to deal with customers of all personalities. They have to interact with people who are not in their age group. 

As the college admissions arms race goes nuclear, high schoolers are less likely to toil at Walgreens during evening hours or stand behind the counter at Subway. Instead, we focus on debate prep, mock trials, and mission trips.

That may sound like progress, but it is a masquerade. If you want to learn genuine leadership and people skills, you are better off working the second shift at Target or dealing with unruly customers at McDonald’s. In my case, handling the lunch hour rush at Panera during my first week on the job was way more educational than any club meeting I attended. 

So what if you endure boredom, make minimum wage, or realize you’re missing out while your friends are at the movies? Or even got fired. At the least, you will have learned something valuable.