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Want a 25% Higher Salary? Try a Summer Job

For young people, a summer gig can lead to serious gains.

A version of this article was originally published by OZY on July 26, 2018.

Isabel Lozoya likes her summer job interning at the Houston Mayor's Office of Education. So far, she's conducting research on education policy, meeting city leaders and learning the ins and outs of networking.

What Lozoya may not know is that her experience working summers now may well set her up for a successful career track later.

According to a 2015 Drexel University study, "A decade after graduation, former high schoolers (ages 16 to 19) who had summer jobs earned 20 to 25 percent more than peers who did not have summer jobs." And 2018 research conducted by Indeed, found that the future financial benefits have spurred more and more young people to search for relevant job training and experience during the summer. In fact, the demand for summer jobs is so strong that it is outpacing supply — and only about 38 percent of young adults looking for summer jobs last year were able to find positions based on data reported by 19 U.S. cities in 2017.

Creating Opportunity for a Young Workforce
Fortunately, businesses across the country have begun to step up. Given the increase in the demand for summer jobs, companies are creating opportunities for this eager pool of young talent. For example, last year JPMorgan Chase made a $17 million five-year commitment to supporting summer youth employment programs (SYEPs) in close to 20 U.S. cities. And just last summer, the support provided by JPMorgan Chase helped those cities provide jobs to nearly 40,000 young adults through SYEPs.

SYEPs not only provide young adults with economic opportunities and the ability to earn some money, but they also offer the chance to learn valuable work-related skills. These skills — including responsibility, problem-solving and time management — can benefit teens for almost any future career path.

"It is critical that young people experience real work settings to help them prepare for their careers," says Marya Triandafellos, author of Career X: Expert Advice on How to Cultivate Your Career. "During the summers, [young adults] can experiment with different skills, industries and work environments to discover what works best for them."

In addition to helping young adults figure out what types of jobs they enjoy, SYEPs also provide a training ground for teens to develop proficiencies. For some, a summer job is the first time they are expected to act like an adult — by demonstrating maturity, independence, initiative. And, it could also be the first time they receive a salary. This early exposure to earning money and paying taxes can lead to truly remarkable results.

Developing Financial Health
Receiving a steady income, even as a teen, is a valuable introduction to the importance of long-term financial health — from retirement funds to the power of tax-free savings. It's also a key lesson in money management, as young adults who commit to saving a portion of their summer earnings are far less likely to spend impulsively and squander their hard-earned cash.

And often, the monetary gains aren't nearly as valuable or impactful as the experience itself. For Lozoya, working at the Houston Mayor's Office of Education — which was one of the SYEPs supported by JPMorgan Chase — has given her tangible rewards beyond the salary she earned.

“I hope to retain the knowledge that I gain here and apply it to my future," she says, “whether it be remembering a statistic that could help me in one of my classes or putting into practice the critical thinking and problem-solving skills I have learned."

With a job market as hot as the summer sun, it's a great time for young adults to explore what kinds of jobs are out there, pick up some real-life experience and get a head start on building a financial and professional future.