Teenagers have always got bad press. It is because they are fresh, innovative and rebellious. Almost nothing can beat their optimism and joy when they are doing well at something they love. I see this when I watch drama students performing. Less than 100 yards away, I also see a group of teenagers spraying water bottles for no reason except that they are redundant. I use the word redundant because it means surplus to requirement; when I see dead eyes I am sure that this is how many teenagers feel – surplus to requirement. These teens might still be at school or they might be unemployed. Whatever the case, they are still redundant in the sense I am using because they are not being directed into finding what makes them want to get up in the morning. It could mean that they will never feel fully part of society. I know they are told that they have to pass exams and get a job. However, this is telling them what they have to do – they need to find out what they WANT to do. When young people have no direction, they do not know their place in society – they are out in the margins looking in. On the other hand, when a teenager has a self directed goal, they don’t need to be pushed to pass exams or get a job. They WANT to do both. Work experience is a step for teenagers finding what they really want to do with the rest of their lives. I believe that even if it is just an hour a week, we can ALL benefit from having a teenager working with us. My teenage son works with me. Here are just some of the reasons it’s great to work with a teenager.
Technology know how. I use a computer daily but do tend to be set in my ways in what I use. I can find out how to do new things but it all takes time. Time is not in abundance in my life so I will not use new ideas or pieces of technology because I haven’t got the time to learn how to use them. This is where working with my teenage son helps. He sits at the laptop and works miracles for me. He saves me hours a week.
Laughter and joy. I have always enjoyed humour. When something really tickles me I can laugh until I feel like I am wearing a Victorian corset. A couple of years ago, I realised that I no longer laughed like I used to do. It occurred to me that the responsibility of family finances, a career, motherhood, a home and health issues had made me a bit of a serious person. If I am totally honest, I was horrified. I remembered a younger me and wanted the fun part of her back and quickly. Working with a teenager can do that for you. When we are in parent mode, if there is a problem the parent sorts it out. However, when we work with our teenagers – the problem is shared. Teenagers are more likely to laugh when things go pear shaped. I don’t mean serious issues but jobs which can be straightened out. Teenagers giggle and it is infectious. Some of our catastrophes have had us bent over double with laughter.
It encourages other young people to look at your business. When a teenager is involved in your business, it gives it a young appeal. For instance, at Loony Literature, we are trying to inspire young people to read and write more. We put videos and podcasts out to get young readers and writers interested. My son appears in both videos and podcasts which demonstrates that we are not a group of adults trying to lecture kids. Also, by having a teen in videos and podcasts, it encourages other young people to do something similar themselves.
It helps us see our business through a young person’s perspective. The children and teenagers in the world at the moment are tomorrow’s customers. As grown ups, sometimes we are so busy, we don’t realise that people and their needs are rapidly changing. When we have a teenager working with us, if we allow them enough voice – which we should – we are allowed into the world as they see it. For instance, I have been amazed at the way children and teenagers play together on the internet. When I was a child, I would meet my friends and we would play in the nearby woods. We lived in a world of our own make believe. My favourite game was being on a deserted island – I know – in reality it would be a nightmare but that is children for you. Adults constantly say that children don’t play any more, that they are always on computers. What many adults don’t realise is that children play the same sort of games that they used to play but on the internet. My son played a game about a time travelling café with other kids on the internet for months. It was a whole complete world which they had made up. They have also been secret agents uncovering a mole in a top toy manufacturer. The use of shared creativity and playfulness is endless. If I had not been lucky enough to be shown the world through a teen’s perspective, I would not know about of any that. Working with a teen has given me an insight which can be used to promote Loony Literature. I think this might be the case for many businesses.
Work experience. – At school, teenagers are nearly always with other people who are the same age as them. It is often the same in college. Suddenly, they are in the workplace and everybody else is at least twice their age. It’s no wonder they can appear sullen. Their past experiences of grown ups often falls into two categories –a) family and friends who they know or b) figures of authority like teachers. Teenagers are often self conscious. When they are thrown head first into a dual world of work and middle aged strangers, they often retreat into themselves. This is why they need work experience before they leave education.
Confidence – The last two go hand in hand. Work experience, if handled properly, can give teenagers the confidence to pursue the career they really want. As all ex teenagers will remember, it is a time of extreme highs followed by sky diving lows. These are emotions which come and go like cats constantly coming in and going out again. Confidence, however, is something which sits inside us and probably influences every decision we take. Teenagers who are given work experience in a field which they believe is “not for people like them”, might actually acquire the confidence to gain the examination results and pursue a career, they could only dream about. Surely that would make a better world for all of us.
- How Drama Classes Give Teenagers Work Experience. (loonyliterature.com)