Getting Your Child Ready for the Working World

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Parents can gently guide their children toward readiness for the working world while re­inforcing the importance of smart money management once the first paycheck arrives.

Put your child to work at home: Some parents believe that kids should never be given an allowance. While that is a family decision, there are plenty of kids who do work around the house in exchange for money or special privi­leges. It’s a good way to get kids thinking about the value of a dollar—as long as parents don’t exceed the allowance limit whenever a child has a special want or need. After all, real jobs don’t offer extra cash when someone overspends; parents should avoid it as well.

Talk to your kids about jobs they’d like to try: This can be a discussion about skills and preferences, but it’s also an opportunity to discuss how work is valued in a monetary sense. If your child wants to work part-time in a fast-food restaurant, that’s fine, but if he or she is a whiz on the computer or if your child is good at teaching particular subjects, it might be worthwhile to help your child research what his or her special skills might earn in the marketplace.

Teach your kids to look for work like an adult: It’s never too early to learn the specific skill for finding a job. Encourage your kids to learn how to read both print and internet want ads while doing research on salary averages for those positions. Teach them to re­search potential future employers. Also, suggest your teens talk with family members, teachers and community leaders you trust about job options nearby—it’s never too early to learn how to network. Most importantly, get them the right help so they can write their first resume.

Encourage self-employment: Many kids start their working life babysitting or mowing lawns. As mentioned above, if your child demonstrates a certain skill or activity that might turn into a career, give your child all the encouragement he or she needs to develop it into a summer job and, if applicable, an educational goal. That skill your child develops at 14 or 15 might be a gateway to a college scholarship at 18. Also, don’t fail to mention the benefit of working summer internships in the areas of your child’s chosen interests when he or she gets to college.

Encourage your kids to save or invest part of their paycheck: Teens may work for a number of reasons—earning spending money, helping finance college, paying for a car, gas and maintenance, are a few. But encourage your teens to also reserve part of their after-school earnings for specific goals. Help your teens open a checking account and appropriate savings vehicles to get them in the lifetime habit of saving part of a paycheck each week.

Take your kids to work: Kids learn by example. Taking them to work allows them to observe a particular work setting, its purpose and the way you and your co-workers op­erate in it. If you like your job, your children will see that, and it will help them under­stand that work is not just about money.

Prepare yourself to deal with their mistakes and failures: Your child may have rough times on the job; he or she might lose a job or fail to get paid. Don’t fight your child’s bat­tles, but be ready to offer advice that will encourage your child to work well with people, always seek out better opportunities and ensure proper value for his or her work.

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