Pacer Notes: A W-2 wake-up call
My W-2 arrived in the mail recently, and I was initially excited. By receiving official employment and tax-related documents, I finally felt like a productive member of society.
This excitement quickly transitioned into disappointment, however, as I noticed the discrepancy between my income last year and how much of those earnings remained in my bank account.
After working all summer with a near full-time job and part-time hours during school-year weekends, I had made a fairly substantial amount of money for a high schooler. But a dropped phone, a broken computer, a fender bender and many useless miscellaneous purchases left me with almost nothing to show for it.
I was disappointed with my frivolous spending. The school year was only half over and I had blown through the majority of my budget. All of the warnings that my mother had given me about how "if you're not careful, you will spend all your money" had finally happened. With nothing to show, all of my hard work felt like a waste of time.
But while financially this may be true, the intangible and personal skills that I have learned through work carry a strong value of their own. For example, at my job at a local restaurant, I have learned a variety of lifelong skills. The most valuable of these is communication.
Success in the workforce is directly related to how well one is able to communicate. I learned that the best way to confront any dilemma or situation is to remain open and honest with my bosses and co-workers. If a conflict arises with scheduling or another aspect of work, I have found that it is best to discuss the problem and work toward a solution instead of ignoring it.
This can be a difficult skill for teenagers to master, because communicating with adults, for some reason, is a common irrational fear among teens. I too used to be nervous when emailing or reaching out to adults, but after working at my job, good communication has become second nature.
Another valuable skill I have learned through work is commitment. This is another skill that can be difficult for young people to learn, because many of the plans that teenagers make are very low-stakes. For example, if a teen makes plans with a group of friends, there is no real consequence for cancelling at the last minute. The group will still go out and have fun without the missing friend. After committing to a shift at work, however, an employee must show up or the entire business will suffer.
While working, I have come across many conflicts in which a night that I have agreed to work perfectly lines up with an intriguing social event. While it is difficult to miss out when this happens, it has taught me the importance of sacrifice. I have also learned how to improve my time-management skills so that I can fit all required and desired activities into my schedule.
Working a job in high school not only provides students with a way to earn money, but also teaches them many lifelong skills. I have been employed at my job for just over two years, and I have already learned many valuable skills that will carry over into all future career paths.
Through my time at work, I am rich ... at least in experience.