Helping Young People Succeed at Work


(25 January 2022)

How Teenagers Benefit by Working with Customers Directly

They Build Communication Skills and Learn to Help Others

In school kids are taught the three-Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. But if they fail to develop a few other key life skills they may crucially limit themselves going forward.

These other key skills are speaking, listening, conversing and helping others.

When high schoolers take jobs that do not involve working with customers directly, such as warehouse or construction work, they deprive themselves the opportunity of honing their interpersonal dexterity. While all work has merit, and no one should stay in a job that is a bad fit if they have a choice, a great time for teens to exercise and develop their people skills is during this formative period of their lives.

Meanwhile, companies exist to help customers succeed and they covet employees able to help them do just that. Although some companies thrive today with algorithms, apps, automated kiosks and websites, many still need talented employees.

Consumers in many market categories have complex problems and need attentive, capable assistance. Many customers need human employees able to listen to them, consider their needs, and help them formulate solutions.

Companies serving such customers need well-rounded employees. It is not enough to be just a good listener, or a good speaker. Nor is it sufficient to be knowledgeable about a subject. Knowledge without the skills to put it to use and share it with others is of little value to these employers. What they need is employees with a combination of all of these skills. And there is little better way to develop them than working with customers directly.

Of course, long term, not all teens will necessarily aspire to stay in retail-type customer-facing roles. But these skills—listening, speaking, conversing, and problem solving—will be useful in many types of careers. Teens aspiring to become doctors, lawyers—even astronauts—will benefit from having strong interpersonal capabilities in their career toolbox.

Building communications skills and learning to help others are important reasons to encourage your teens to, at least, consider spending a summer in a customer-facing role. If they are considering a more isolating position, you may want to talk to them about the important skills they could fail to develop fully by taking it. Customer-facing experience should help them build a strong working foundation, regardless of the direction they choose later in life.

–Greg Kagay


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