As a child spending her summers at the pool, the most dreaded ten minutes of the hour was “Adult Swim.” This was when the lifeguards, sporting red shirts and sunglasses, would go on break and announce that all swimmers under fourteen were to exit the water. I would let out a groan and wish that I was old enough to stay in as I waited patiently with the other kids for the lifeguard to return. The most blissful moment was when a shrill whistle would announce the commencement of “free swim,” and we could get back in.
Five years later, I was sitting on the lifeguard chair, glancing down at the water. It was my first shift, and my heart was pounding as I scanned for possible danger. After fifty minutes of yelling, “Walk on the deck!”, counting heads, and blowing my whistle, it was time for “adult swim.”
Just like I had years before, these kids groaned and reluctantly left the pool, complaining that they weren’t yet fourteen. I couldn’t help but smile. As a child, I had only seen the lifeguard as a bother, taking away ten minutes of my pool time. Now, I was that lifeguard. It was funny how age changed my perspective. I wasn’t just a teen who called “adult swim!” to the pool — I literally had the lives of dozens of swimmers in my hands and hours of training behind me.
This drastic change in perspective can be a bit jarring. The innocence of childhood convinces us that a lifeguard is merely an inconvenience. In reality, that lifeguard is a major part of the behind-the-scenes safety, well-being, and enjoyment of all pool-goers. It’s a definite shift in viewpoint that I am glad I can appreciate. Not only did having a job with such responsibility increase my maturity, but the following additional benefits came with it:
- Money Management
As children and young adults, money can be a difficult concept to grasp in its entirety. It can be challenging to have awareness of how much money we have, how much it’s really worth, and the best way to spend it. In receiving a paycheck, I have a better recognition of the cost of everyday items such as food in comparison to my income. I can plan out how much I want to spend and save and formulate a plan for future expenses and investments. Overall, I have a greater appreciation for money in general. I understand the work that goes into receiving financial compensation and I am certainly more prepared for my economics in the future.
2. Working With Time and Energy
After weeks of sleeping in, I suddenly had to wake up at six in the morning (which, as a night owl, was not enjoyable at all). However, the quick change in schedule allowed me to adjust my energy levels and sleep schedule. With the monotony of high school life, it can be a valuable experience to switch up the daily agenda and to learn to adapt. In the future, this can assist a teen’s capability to perform well in jobs and to manage their time effectively.
3. Responding to Challenges
Having a job creates a whole new sense of problem-solving. I recall most specifically an instance in which a child was choking during one of my first lifeguarding shifts. It was the most dire circumstance I had ever encountered, and I knew that I needed to approach it with my training in mind. While the child was thankfully okay, situations such as these exemplify the role that dilemmas take in jobs. They are often more serious and require a great deal of responsibility to work through, which teaches teenage workers how to respond quickly and effectively when problems arise.
4. Managing a Heightened Sense of Responsibility
While working a job, the financial compensation teenagers receive holds them to a much higher level of responsibility. Working with customers, clients, colleagues, and bosses allows for a deeper level of maturity to develop. We are held accountable for ourselves and a multitude of others, allowing for a sense of shared duty and a sense of self-accountability.
Overall, for me, having a job has been a pivotal part of my life. Not only have I reached a small degree of financial autonomy, but I feel more independent, responsible, and prepared for the workforce in later years. If any teenagers reading this are on the fence — do it! Apply, give your greatest effort, and reap the rewards.