Saturday jobs: more than just some extra cash

Pret a Manger: More than just a Saturday job. Photo: Flickr/leff

It was reported last week in the Guardian that fewer young people are taking on ‘Saturday jobs’. Figures released by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills show that the percentage of teenagers with part-time jobs whilst at school or college has dropped from around 40 to around 20. This will have a disastrous effect on school-leavers and graduates trying to find work later in life, as it will mean they have never had the experience of a work-place.

When I was a teenager I was desperate for a job to earn more than just my weekly pocket-money. As soon as I could I applied for paper rounds, posted flyers all over my village to advertise myself as a baby sitter and dreamed of the day when I would turn 16 so I could apply for shop-work. When I was finally taken on for a weekend position at Pret a Manger just after I’d sat my GCSEs, I was thrilled. At the time, it was primarily the promise of regualar money which drove me forwards, but in the four years I’ve worked with Pret, I’ve learnt that Saturday jobs can offer a lot more than just a bit of extra cash for the cinema.

The multitude of things I’ve learnt at my first ‘real’ job have been invaluable, and it’s a shame that less young people are taking them on. In an increasingly competitive job market, part-time jobs show dedication, reliability and trust, especially if you’ve been doing it alongside your studies. It will teach you skills you can apply to future jobs, will give teenagers the opportunity for independence, and give them an experience of the ‘real world’ that cannot be taught through any GCSE or A-Level.

At Pret a Manger, I’ve learnt skills that you can take everywhere. Admittedly, knowing the exact temperature of a latte or how many onion rings to put in a ploughman’s probably won’t set me apart from other graduates. However, a customer-service job is perfect for learning and developing social skills. When you’re having a tough day, there is nothing more challenging than staying positive and cheery for every single customer you come across, upholding the business values for the rest of your team. When you spend as much as time at work as at home, the people there become like your second family, and it is vital that you are able to get on with them. Working in a close environment like this is the perfect opportunity to develop team-working skills and learn how to deal positively with others. It also gives you effective time management skills, as deadlines and assignments will be a feature of any job out there.

Earning money and independence is the main reason that many teenagers take on a Saturday job in the first place, and was my main motivation for doing so. Those nights out with friends and Topshop dresses seem vital during school years, and if I had to give up my Saturday to be able to afford it, I would. The shopping spree after my first pay-check still holds good memories, which probably explains too why my wardrobe no longer shuts. For myself and many others, having a Saturday job also gave me the funds to learn to drive. Finally I had a vehicle to take me out of my sleepy village and into the big wide world whenever I wanted, giving me a significant increase in freedom (and a lot fewer arguments with my parents).

Getting experience of the ‘real world’ is important for any career, and probably the most valuable thing that teenagers can get out of a Saturday job. Aside from the skills I’ve developed, Pret has given me a taste of running a business, even if I’m not the one in charge of it. From following a bakery plan to encourage the correct amount of waste to ‘upselling’ products and creating promotions to lift sales in certain areas, being familiar with profits, margins and acquiring a basic business knowledge are considered great things to be aware of for any managerial position. It’s also taught me how to manage my time at home, balance my homework with my shifts, what it feels like to collapse on the sofa after 8 hours on my feet, and what exactly a P45 is and what to do with it. These real-life problems and situations are a prime example of what you don’t get taught in school, but you still need to know to get by.

For any teenagers that are not considering a part-time job to do alongside their studies, what are you waiting for? It might be tough, you might have competition with others your age or from those older in the field who have lost their full-time positions, and at times it can be pretty despairing. Yet, the benefits of a Saturday job, or even an after-school position or early morning paper round will be invaluable to your future career and demonstrate to employers that you have the dedication and ability to succeed in all aspects of your life.

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