Why Your Teen Should Invent a Job This Summer
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Money, Jobs, & College
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Summer will be here soon and your teen might be looking for a summer job. But it probably will be better if she doesn’t find a job. It will be better if, instead of finding a job, she invents one.
Here’s why. As a recent New York Times interview by Thomas Friedman makes clear, being able to invent employment is an essential life skill for everyone in the new economy. Friedman interviewed Tony Wagner, a Harvard education professor and author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Wagner believes that the old pattern of graduating from high school or college, finding a job in the conventional way, and then doing work that draws on one’s education is a pattern that is no longer reasonable. Life no longer works that way.
Unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, as high as 53% according to The Atlantic. To make their way in the world, young people need more than just a good education and connections. They need creativity and motivation.
According to Harvard’s Wagner, it’s not enough to know facts – the sorts of things standardized tests are good at measuring. Instead, kids today need to be “innovation-ready.” Wagner says, “what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know.” This is where your teen’s summer plans come in.
Instead of getting a job like everyone else – or, more likely, looking for a job like everyone else and probably not find one – help your teen assess his skills and interests and the needs of the community. What can he do that others might pay him to do? How can he turn his assets into cash?
Many of us did just that when we mowed lawns or babysat in our teen years. These are still good entrepreneurial ventures. But there are more. Here is just a starter list of jobs a teen could invent:
- Computer specialist
- T-shirt designer
- Guitar or piano teacher
- Greeting card artist
- Window cleaner
- Birthday party planner
- Car detailer
- Dog walker
- Garage organizer
The point is not so much to make money. The summer is, after all, of limited duration and it takes time to build a market and visibility. The point is to learn how to find work from within…. To value one’s own talents and abilities and not rely on someone else to provide a job.
According to Tony Wagner this is the key to a life of full employment. He says, “Young people who are intrinsically motivated — curious, persistent, and willing to take risks — will learn new knowledge and skills continuously. They will be able to find new opportunities or create their own — a disposition that will be increasingly important as many traditional careers disappear.”
Summer is a great time to build these attitudes. Learning how to invent a job just might be your teen’s more important accomplishment for her future.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.