By KALLI DAMSCHEN
It's every teenager's worst nightmare: popping burger grease, hideous uniforms, and a complete lack of free time.
Shudder. Cue the dramatic music. It's ... your first job.
While many teens may dread the idea of having to find a job, working through the high school years may be a great way to gain crucial experience that will be beneficial later in life and to earn some cash.
College, cars and housing, in all their expensive glory, are looming in the not-too-distant future, and it's important to start saving early. Moreover, by earning and handling their own money, teens learn valuable financial lessons about how to deal with money.
Though, for many, money is incentive enough, jobs also offer a wonderful opportunity to gain experience in a particular field and bolster a mostly-empty resume.
On top of that, many colleges also smile upon students who work while maintaining good grades and a rigorous school schedule. Having a job makes a student more well-rounded and demonstrates an ability to balance a number of responsibilities.
Jobs or internships in specific areas can be extra beneficial, providing students with valuable experience in a field they intend to further pursue.
Kenna Andelin, who recently graduated from Clearfield High, has such a job at Brookside Animal Hospital in Ogden. Andelin was offered a job after volunteering there for three years, and has now gained enough experience and training as a kennel technician to work as a veterinary technician this summer.
"Working there has been beneficial in setting me apart from other students as I apply for pre-veterinary and veterinary school programs, in both experience and real life knowledge of how the practice and business works," Andelin said.
On top of improving a resume, jobs and internships can also provide learning outside the classroom and help students to realize their ambitions.
Braden Eichmeier, who recently completed his senior year at Bonneville High, interned at Smith Optics through a school program.
"I learned a lot of skills," Eichmeier said. "I've always been good with working with my hands and tools, but I got to use much better tools, like actual precision tools."
Ike Burton, who will be a junior at Ogden High, also gained important skills through his job as a merit badge counselor at Camp Loll for Boy Scouts.
"I have learned to be a leader and to work hard," he said.
Andelin agreed that jobs can teach you vital things that you could never learn in a classroom.
"I have learned so much that will benefit me as I take the necessary steps to becoming a vet," she said. "I have learned how a real-life veterinary clinic operates, how to handle stressful situations."
"More importantly, working there has reinforced my belief that becoming a vet is my niche in life," Andelin continued, bringing up another beneficial facet of teenage jobs. In real life, jobs are often different from how people imagine them, and it's much better to learn whether or not you're well-suited for a job before committing years to a college degree or other qualifications.
Do your homework
Eichmeier had similar thoughts following his experience at Smiths Optics.
"Going into the internship was different than I expected, and that was good for me," he said. "I wouldn't want to go through college for something that I always thought I'd enjoy, and then get my first job and fail."
While there's certainly nothing wrong with working at McDonald's, jobs relating to a particular interest not only help students gain experience and learn more about potential careers but are often more enjoyable as well.
Moreover, in some cases, it can actually be easier to find a job when you narrow down to a specific area of interest. Due to the recession and high unemployment rate, many adults are working in minimum-wage jobs that once employed teenagers, making it more challenging for high school students to find work.
However, Renee Ward, founder of job-posting site Teens4Hire.org, told Fox Business that it's actually beneficial for teens to "focus on one area of interest" and search for jobs in that area, as that makes it easier to locate opportunities.
A job could come from any situation, such as an internship program through school, a volunteer experience, or a help-wanted ad. While an unpaid job may seem unattractive to many teens, it might open new doors and provide valuable learning experiences.
"Don't be afraid to intern or do other unpaid work," Andelin advised. "It is often more helpful and can lead to a better job, as in my case, as well as giving you helpful insight as to possible careers."
Find a passion
Once a student has found an opportunity, one of the most important steps is to act professionally. A well-polished resume and good speaking skills can help students make positive impressions on possible employers.
Some digging may be necessary to discover specific opportunities, but it's worth it when your job is something you appreciate doing. As Burton says, "It makes working so much better."
Andelin added, "Search for things you enjoy, or that will help you in your future as you begin to consider career options."
The teenage years offer a unique opportunity to pursue various interests, and a slightly unconventional job or internship may be the perfect way to learn and grow outside the classroom and to prepare yourself for life after high school. Why wait until adulthood to start doing what you love?
Kalli Damschen is a recent graduate of Clearfield High School. She is passionate about reading, writing and her Christian faith. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.