CAREER ADVICE: The Desi HR Guy on the value of part-time jobs for students

Published: November 8, 2012

Part-time jobs may pay minimum wage but you can’t put a price on the skills you will develop.

Some students may not have structured work experience programs in their high schools but part-time jobs can provide similar benefits. I don’t know why some parents and students believe working part-time in high school will be unmanageable and have an adverse impact on academic performance.

Some excuses I have heard in the past include “he is our only son,” “Our daughter might start dating if she works,” “What will my friends, family, and neighbours think?” and the ever popular, “They have their whole lives to work and they should focus on school now.”

I believe that a part-time job will actually improve academic performance in most cases but let’s look at some other benefits. Almost any interview question one is going to be asked in a job interview is available online with the appropriate response(s). Hiring managers I consulted with also confirmed that young adults with limited experience start to sound the same after a few interviews. So how do young people make themselves stand out from the crowd?

When I review resumes of young adults who had jobs in high school, I notice that they stand out miles apart from the ones who did not as they:
• Are more confident in their interviews
• Are mature compared to their peers
• Understand the value of money and hard work
• Have above average time management and communication skills
• Have some depth on their resumes and provide real examples to tough interview questions

I once interviewed a high school student and noticed he had worked at McDonald’s. I asked him to provide me with examples of how he dealt with difficult customers in the past. His responses were unique and thought provoking. He described one sunny weekend in the summer when several of his co-workers called in “sick,” leaving his shift short staffed. To make matters worse it was unusually busy. He mentioned that it was challenging as he got yelled at regularly by impatient customers. Throughout the day he smiled and apologized to customers for the wait times and order errors, even though many customers kept changing their orders at the last minute. This was just one of the reasons why I hired this student.

Dealing with difficult and demanding customers (internal and/or external) is a fact of life in most professions; it could be the difference between succeeding or failing in a job. These skills can also be applied in successfully dealing with issues in one’s personal life. Anyone who has children or in-laws knows the true definition of demanding and difficult.

I would highly recommend parents of high school students to encourage their sons and daughters to apply for part-time positions at companies which help to build develop and enhance skills such as customer service, conflict management and multi-tasking. This includes but is not limited to McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart. Students also begin to learn how to manage their finances, be punctual, and a host of other important skills that will help them not only in their careers but also in life.

Pavi Toor is a Human Resources Manager and operates the site www.careersafterschool.com. He can be reached at pavi@careersafterschool.com

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