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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


What Meaningful Work Does to Youth (Part Two)

Yesterday, I blogged about what real “work” accomplishes in young people, and how scarce it is, among teens and even twenty-somethings. They often prefer the virtual.

I asked you to consider the landscape we now live in. Youth today are growing up in a SCENE that adults created. Sadly, it can be summarized with the word SCENE:

S – Speed. (Slow is bad)

C – Convenience. (Hard is bad)

E – Entertainment. (Boring is bad)

N – Nurture. (Risk is bad)

E – Entitlement. (Labor is bad)

photo credit: Christiana Care via photo pin cc

My first job (outside of mowing the lawn), was tossing newspapers at 5:00 a.m. each morning. I was twelve years old. I hated getting up early but I loved the paycheck and the person I was becoming.

Then, at sixteen, I got a “real” job working at a fast-food restaurant. I watered the plants and hosed down the parking lot at 6:00 a.m. before school started. Eventually, I became a cook, then worked the cash register.

I got my first career job at 19, working with teenagers. It was one of three jobs I held down while working on my bachelor’s degree. Ah, those were the good old days. Seriously, those really were good days. Here is what I found happened inside of me as a teen. When I engaged in meaningful work I discovered:

1. It usually transforms knowledge into wisdom
2. It turns arrogance or presumption into humility
3. It always translates information into application
4. It changed sloppy spending habits into thrifty ones
5. It converted rude cockiness into genuine confidence
6. From those jobs, I learn practical insights about reality:

  • It’s harder than I thought it would be
  • It takes longer than I thought it would take
  • People are tougher than I thought they would be
  • It cost more money and energy than I assumed it would.

Unfortunately, many teens today don’t learn these lessons. They don’t enjoy what was normal for teens when I was growing up. Today, the average high school student doesn’t work a job. Instead, they are busy with virtual activities, but often not real ones (click to tweet).

I am only suggesting we reconsider what we encourage our students to do with their spare time. The not-so-glitzy stuff called “real work” may just develop the emotional, social and ethical muscles that have yet to mature.

What do you think about the role of meaningful work in teens today?

1 Comment

  1. Joel Gannon on August 21, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Tim, I had this discussion with my daughter and her boyfriend just yesterday. She just left for her second year of college and worked 2 jobs this summer. I had to push her hard to get a job and the process was interesting. In her freshman year, it seemed that every time I talked to her, I brought up the job thing. Many discussions about work ethic, personal benefit beyond the paycheck, etc. No job. Then, when she came home for the summer, her idea was to sleep past noon and then saunter out late in the day for her search. I forcefully interfered with her idea and she ended up with 2 jobs. (longer story)
    Anyway, as she was getting ready to leave for school, I told her that I was proud of how hard she did work. She was actually happy that she did and learned a lot. Also, she worked for a national shoe chain and now has a job waiting for her at school.
    As a parent, I sometimes wonder if by riding my kids hard, about things in life that matter, that it may be negatively affecting our relationship. I stay conscious of this thought to be aware of how much riding is too much. I try to encourage and be of help.
    As it turns out, this daughter and her older sister are seeing success as a result of their growing work ethic. Today’s blog about expectations fits in nicely with this reply.
    Thanks, and keep up the great work. We love you at Northridge!

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What Meaningful Work Does to Youth (Part Two)