Guest post by Chris Shannon, Financial Literacy Consultant
A recent Rutgers report, Chasing the American Dream, revealed that only 51% of the college graduates interviewed were working full-time. In addition, graduates who got their first job during the recession (2009-2011) earned 10% less in their starting salaries compared to those who entered the workforce four years earlier.
It’s just as hard for teens trying to get work experience. According to a recent news story, the national average unemployment rate for teens has remained above 20% for the past 41 months– a postwar record. How can a parent ensure future career success in a job market like this?
Volunteering may be the answer. A simple time investment can go further than just “giving back.” It can give back to your teen in very tangible ways:
1. Build job-readiness skills. Just because your teen is not getting a paycheck doesn’t mean this experience is not a resume builder. Volunteering on a regular basis requires many of the same skill sets paid employment demands, like: professionalism, punctuality, time management, teamwork and responsibility. It can be a great way to put a second language into practice or to hone more career-specific skill sets, such as computer networking, writing or marketing.
2. Create a valuable career network. Networking is still the most effective way to get a job. When teens volunteer, they meet a wide array of staff who might be a source of future recommendation letters. Your teen’s volunteer supervisor may be a top administrator by the time your teen is ready to work full-time. Also, they are often willing to go to their contacts and networks on behalf of you teen.
3. Develop a path to paid employment. Volunteering can become an extended job interview. If your teen is able to demonstrate desired skills and qualities, the organization may go out of its way to find a way to pay your teen. It is not unheard of for volunteering to turn into paid employment. Teens with work or volunteer experience are also more likely to get paid internship opportunities in college. Chasing the American Dream offers good news for students who completed college internships: they were more likely to be employed and earned nearly 15% more those who did not.
4. Make more informed college and career choices. Sometimes it is more effective to learn which career is not right for your teen. Better to find out after volunteering than after you paid for the education and training that job requires! In addition, teens are exposed to a wider array of careers once within a business or organization. He or she may not be as enamored of the volunteer job but captivated by what a staff person down the hall does for a living.
5. Help fund the education/training future careers require. There is no end to the scholarship opportunities available to those who volunteer. FinAid.com lists scholarships and recognition awards for volunteers; they advise that it is quite common for medical, religious, veteran groups and other community service organizations to provide local scholarships to recognize outstanding community service by young volunteers.
Tell us—did volunteering ever influence your career choice or job options?
About Chris Shannon: An educator for over twenty years and a mom of two young kids, Chris spends most of her time as a financial literacy consultant for rAsa consulting. Chris has developed educational materials and trainings for the National Endowment for Financial Education, the National Jump$tart Coalition, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, and many credit union organizations. She currently serves on VISA’s Educator Advisory Council.
© Your Teen’s Money Skills, Inc. 2012 All rights reserved worldwide.