Knowing Your Worth: Things To Consider Before Getting A Job In High School

Part-time jobs are a great way to start saving money, being more independent, and gaining work experience in school, but there are lots of factors that students should consider and red flags to look out for before joining the workforce.

As the season progresses towards the winter holidays, stores and restaurants will be hiring seasonal and part-time employees. This is a golden opportunity for students to introduce themselves into the workforce. Employers are looking for people to fill the gaps and those are perfect first jobs for many adolescents. While it may sound idealistic, there are a lot of things kids don’t know about working.

Firstly, having a job in high school may not be a good fit for everyone. Each student’s experience is different, and whether you want a job to build savings, or you need one to help out around the house, there are tons of pros and cons that should be weighed when considering joining the workforce. Here are some to think about:

Pros:
– Extra income for personal use and savings
– Building work experience for better job opportunities in the future
– Building relationships with others in the workforce
– Learning new skills and communication: human capital
– Building patience
– Adding structure/substance to life
– Broadening socialization with all walks of life

Cons:
– Less free time
– More responsibility for oneself
– Finding new balance for school/more time management
– Could be added stress depending on the job, mental health effects
– Takes up more gas (if you drive)
– Takes up lots of energy
– Risk of injury (sports can be affected)

Getting a job is a decision that is ultimately made by the individual. Looking at the costs and benefits before deciding to look or apply is a great way to evaluate one’s needs and make the best choice for that moment in time.

Secondly, when applying and interviewing, or even after you start a job there are lots of telltale signs about a work environment that can indicate whether it´s worth the time and effort. Red flags are negative signs, and green flags are positive.

Senior Nadia Williams working downtown at her part-time job with two friends and coworkers

Green flags: Good signs
– Workers seem relaxed and happy.
– Good communication between workers and managers.
– A good amount of staff for the amount of work being done
– Clean workspaces
– Spaces for employees to take a break
– Clear workplace guidelines and communication about employee rights (posters, introductory book, etc.)

Red flags: Things to look out for
– Dissatisfied workers
– The manager or trainer doesn’t cover break policies, benefits, or any other employee rights.
– Employees aren’t communicating with each other or the manager, or when they do it´s unpleasant
– Understaffed: Lots of work, very few people
– No space for employees
– Everything seems behind all the time
– Messy or unsanitary workspaces

Lastly, there´s the legal aspect of getting a job. As minors, students have different rights, regulations, and restrictions in the workplace. It’s important to know these rights so that there’s no room for employers to take advantage and generally being informed is something everyone should consider. After all, knowledge is power.

According to the Tennessee Child Labor Act, students between the ages of 14 and 15 are the youngest who can legally be employed in this state, anyone under the age of 14 is not permitted to work on payroll. Their regulations are a bit stricter than those of ages 16 and 17. The Tennessee codes for both age groups are pictured below.

TN Code for employment of minors aged 14-15
TN Code for employment of minors aged 16-17

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TN Code for employment of minors aged 14-15
Generally, students of 14 and 15 must work fewer hours (up to 18 hours during school weeks) require more breaks, and have limited schedule availability due to a focus on keeping kids in school. There is a requirement for a consecutive 30-minute break or meal period if a student is supposed to work 6 or more hours in one shift.

Students 16 and older have the same general limitations and break requirements, but the number of hours available to work is not limited by this particular law, and the curfews are extended. Neither age group can work during school hours or for more than 3 days during the week after school. Once a student becomes 18, these regulations go away and transition into adult labor laws.

Evaluating your needs as a student and looking at all the facts before getting a job is important before making the commitment. The best choice is the most beneficial for the individual, so don’t be afraid to get out there and explore the workforce with this knowledge!

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