Work it: part-time jobs offer merits, valuable rewards for teenagers


Carol Xu

From my experience working at a boba store, I’ve become convinced that working part-time is a rite of passage all teenagers should undertake.

Carol Xu, AVT Editor

In early January, I started my first part-time job at Happy Lemon, a store specializing in boba milk tea. The reason? I had a big sweet tooth, a mild obsession with tapioca pearls, and the thought of earning my own money tickled me to bits. I imagined myself whizzing away behind the counter, mixing ingredients and shaking drinks like some potion master. 

After almost three months working at Happy Lemon, the job hasn’t exactly been what I expected. However, I’m confident I made the right decision, and my experiences there have convinced me that working part-time is a rite of passage all teenagers should undertake. 

For one, jobs in public service industries can foster stronger work ethic and communication skills in high school students. Having to interact with a wide array of customers every shift is indeed an intimidating task. There’s the health nuts, calorie counters, and caffeine avoiders; there’s the lovey-dovey couples; there’s the indecisive deliberators; there’s the people for whom English isn’t their first language. 

For me, a past perfectionist who used to agitate over every little detail, working at the cashier threw me in for a loop, into often awkward and uncomfortable situations where I learned to improvise and think fast. Sure, I’m still no social butterfly, but the conversation techniques I’ve taken away have given me more confidence that’s helped in other facets of high school life, like interviewing strangers for a journalism article, speaking up more during class discussions, and leading underclassmen in the badminton team. 

Having a job also teaches one to maintain a calm composure in stressful situations. On weekends and late nights, customers swarm in like hungry ants, and, for such a cute-looking store, the atmosphere at Happy Lemon can become a potboiler at the drop of a hat. Orders start piling up, drinks take longer to make, and customers get frustrated. At my first few shifts, I started to panic looking over all the orders yet to be made, but my co-workers pushed on with steady hands, moving like patient culinary ninjas. By observing and imitating their responses, I learned to stay cool, calm, and collected, even when my surroundings become embroiled in chaos. 

Most importantly, working part-time has imbued me with a new sense of accomplishment and appreciation for money. Since childhood, I, like others my age, routinely begged and badgered my parents for innumerable items. Since all I ever saw with a purchase was the seemingly simple click of a button to make a transaction, followed up by the product the next day, I never fully comprehended the hard work and sacrifice that goes into making money. 

At Happy Lemon, my mindset has done a full 180. Working up to ten hours a week greeting customers and making drinks impressed upon me the great amount of effort and time one must input to earn money. And that makes the checks and wages I receive every two weeks hold so much more value in my eyes. Opening up my bank account to admire the fresh cash in the coffers has become my bimonthly ritual. Best of all, I can now swipe my own card and make individual purchases without my parents as the middle-men. Of course, my part-time salary can in no way support me financially, but the work that went into earning my money has helped me understand the value of money and learn to make wiser purchases. 

All in all, working a part-time job in high school exposed me to the pressures of a real workplace, and helped me develop better communication skills and independence. I realize that the high school teenager’s life is often hectic, their schedules stuffed with school homework and extracurricular commitments. Time is limited. But, allocating that time towards experiencing the life of an employee can become extraordinarily valuable and rewarding in the long run, whether it’s learning to save money or interact better with others.