Teenagers and young adults are motivated to work by the idea of having access to their own money which they earned themselves. It is a part of the normal stages of growing up. Just like getting your driver’s license at 16 years old, getting your first job is an equally important milestone. But what sorts of jobs are teens gravitating toward in 2022? What sort of jobs would be valuable for teens in this day and age?

Service industry horror stories are a part of American culture. Whether you’re working as a server in a restaurant or as a barista in a local coffee shop, almost every employee has an experience that has shaped their own lives. In cases of negative experiences such as a customer yelling at a server, or in positive ways like receiving a generous tip, service positions provide valuable life experience. Young adults begin to learn and understand why they may have gotten a negative or positive reaction from a customer and where to go from there, as well as how to avoid negative conflicts with the customer in return for positive feedback. Young adults should start in customer service positions to understand important life and communication skills.

Young people tend to lean toward service jobs because they need money, not necessarily because they need experience in that field. Service jobs are important because of lessons like empathy and communication that are taught along the way. In a survey done by the Shift Project, only 55 percent of working young adults reported satisfaction with their current job’s sense of purpose, despite 90 percent of them saying that having a sense of purpose for their work is important to them. Working jobs such as serving at restaurants or working retail, even if they lack significant correlation with an employee’s future, help to shape characteristics that will lead young adults to the future they aspire for, like going to college or finding a different job in their field later in life. By working, young adults learn to shift their focus toward a bigger picture.

Additionally, startup job positions present young adults with a new way to interact with other people. Working in any service industry, employees are presented with the issue of customers, with the age-old saying that “the customer is always right.” In these moments of conflict between employee and customer, it is important to adjust to the environment and learn how to present yourself as an empathetic, compassionate employee, rather than boiling over with frustration. Once frustration steps into play, it is difficult to get your job done. Empathy is an important lesson for young adults to take with them through the rest of their lives. Once a person can learn to understand the point of view of others, it becomes easier to establish a sense of understanding between two people. These are social skills that will help a young adult develop into a mature, efficient adult in their field of choice. The ability to have control in frustrating situations reflects on the individual, presenting themselves in a mature and respectful manner.

Young adults commonly work customer service positions because at a young age, benefits and higher wages aren’t always in high demand. In cases where a young adult is privileged enough to be working solely for extra pocket cash, these individuals don’t need to worry about insurance or medical benefits provided from an employer. Instead, they can focus on arriving at work and performing well. In these positions, young adults can learn gratitude and empathy. When working in a restaurant, employees can range from all ages. Some employees need to focus on raising and providing for their family, while other young adults may show up to work just to have some spending money. Of course, there are plenty of young adults who do work to provide for themselves and their families as well. Nevertheless, young adults in customer service jobs have an opportunity to put themselves into the shoes of their co-workers, take a step back and realize they need to work just as hard as everyone else, even if they are young. Young adults should consider that they may not be working to provide for a family, but their effort will impact their fellow employees’ success in the job. Young adults then get to practice working toward a common goal with co-workers, presenting a new form of teamwork different from working together in a classroom or athletic settings that teenagers would be more accustomed to.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause worldwide troubles, some working young adults face even bigger struggles of balancing schoolwork with an essential customer service job. During the pandemic, teenagers and young adults witnessed unprecedented times, and working with others may create an even better understanding of community struggles. In difficult situations like these, young employees are forced to learn how to express their discomforts or needs from their job. Young adults learn the important skill of communication in the service industry, how to present themselves professionally and negotiate to get what they want, whether it be higher wages, better hours or safety protocol.

The most important thing to remember for young adults entering service industry solutions is that these jobs are centered around understanding other people. Even doing something like taking a person’s order requires you to understand what this person wants, teaching you to be a better listener and communicator. Every young person should at some point work in the service industry to have a better understanding of people in general. In this way, they can use these skills to grow.

Madison Stolarski is a junior majoring in English.