By John Brandon
Think for a moment about your first paid job. Whether it was a rousing success that sent you on the road to your future career or a revelation about a type of work you never wanted to do again, it was the opening to a whole new world.
Work was a new place with a set of rules we had to learn to follow and new behaviors we had to adopt in order to fit in. Our job provided us with benefits like money in our pockets, a chance to build skills, and a feeling of competency and capability that we had never felt before we heard those magic words: “you’re hired!”
Why is this such a big deal?
Just think about all the things you learned at that first job of yours: things like taking responsibility for carrying out duties in a quality fashion; the importance of working together; how to be flexible, adaptable, patient, and calm under pressure; how to communicate with supervisors and co-workers; and especially how to focus on the needs of the customers you served or the employer you worked for instead of your own needs.
Young people need those skill-building opportunities to set them up for life time success.
Many of us got that first job because somebody—a parent, a mentor, a pastor—opened a door for us and connected us to our employer. Unfortunately, lots of young people in our community don’t have that “door opener” in their lives.
That is one OpportunINDY goal: We want young people to know there are open doors and where they are; their first job is to walk through and take advantage of what they find inside.
Jobs – whether working in a program serving children, at a retail store or fast food restaurant serving customers, or in a professional office situation – are critical to the positive, healthy development of young people and to the successful economic future of our community.
One of the five big outcomes of the OpportunINDY effort is to increase opportunities for young people ages 14 to 24 to get prepared for and enter into the world of work.
While the major benefits of employment lie in gaining work experience and supplementing both personal and family income, some research shows it could have educational implications, too.
Studies show that having a job can increase a young person’s time-management skills, motivation, self-confidence and sense of responsibility, all of which could help them succeed at their education as well as in the workplace where they will make their career.
That means it’s even more important that the community step up its efforts to connect young people who want to work with the many opportunities that exist.
Think again about how valuable that first paid job was in forming you into the productive and capable working adult you have become—and you will understand why connecting young people to jobs is not a luxury, but a necessity.
John has been President of the Marion County Commission On Youth (MCCOY) for +20 years and was a mentoring program caseworker before that. He’s also a much-loved husband and father as well as an avid, long-distance cyclist. To learn more about how MCCOY convenes, builds capacity among providers and advocates, visit www.mccoyouth.org