Work experience are great both for your college application and your personal development.  You learn many things from your work experience – work ethic, responsibilities, interpersonal skills (both to deal with colleagues and customers), and the value of money.  You will have a different appreciation for things once you realize how much work it takes to earn enough money to buy that iPad.

Would doing menial tasks actually hurt one’s image?  The answer should be NO, and here is why.  The aforementioned lessons can be learned from almost all types of jobs.  Students are never seen less favorably when they have jobs that are considered menial to adults.  Yes, they can be more impressive if they have jobs that have major responsibilities or require advanced skills, but those jobs are hard to get, especially for high school students.  Students also learn a lot from observing how adults do their jobs, even though they don’t get to do those tasks themselves.  Therefore, what you learned is probably more crucial than what you actually did.

Many parents do not allow their kids to work for a variety of legitimate reasons, such as safety and wanting the kids to focus on schoolwork.  Others may have reasons that are more pride-driven – not wanting others to think that they are parents who cannot provide for their kids.  There’s one fact that many parents ignore when they consider a kid’s request to work: kids work to learn, not to earn.  So parents: get over those concerns and instead try to figure out how to help your kids get the most they can from their work experience.  If you are really concerned about the impact on schoolwork, then let them focus on summer jobs.  There are no real good reasons for not allowing your kids to work.

If your parents own a company, does it count if you work there?  Well, the short answer is: “not as much.”  You just don’t get the same level of demands you’d get from an outsider, and also you will be treated differently by your peers at work.  I’ve heard of doctors trading their kids so they work at the other person’s clinic.  That is an improvement over working for your own parents, but still you may be treated more generously than you would at a total stranger’s company.  Take the challenge – work for a complete stranger and learn something.

Unpaid internships are also good, particularly if it’s with a firm in a field that you are interested in exploring.  Your internship may also become a springboard for a future job.  Or maybe you learn enough about that field that you decide not to pursue it as your career.  Either way, it’s good for your career development.

How about volunteer work?  Most volunteer works are fairly easy-going.  Host organizations tend to be very lenient about the volunteers’ attitude and performance, and they tend to not entrust volunteers with important work.  So while volunteer works look good on your college application, paid work experience are probably more preferable than volunteer work.  The key is to explain your experience and how that adds to your understanding of the world and makes you a more mature person.

Your employer or supervisor can also write recommendation letters for you.  Sometimes their letters can better illustrate your work ethic and personal characteristics than those from your teachers.  They can always fax in their recommendations if theirs cannot be submitted online.