Teens Confident and Motivated Seeking Jobs

A recent Junior Achievement survey, "Kids and Careers," found striking differences in the opinions of teenage boys and girls in what motivates them to excel on the job and what tools they consider important in determining career success. The study found that fewer girls than boys said they needed perks such as a promotion and raise (girls 38%, boys 56%), to excel on the job. When asked if they needed additional motivation to succeed, 40% of girls responded that they did not, while only 22% of boys said they needed no extra motivation. Also, when asked what would motivate them to take a less than ideal job, the poll found that fewer girls say they are motivated by a higher salary than boys, with 67% girl respondents saying they were motivated by a higher salary versus 74% of boy respondents.

Boys and girls also had differing opinions on how to prepare for career success.

  • 85% of girls identified schools programs, such as job shadowing, that help develop work skills and prepare them for a career
  • 78% of boys identified these schools programs as important for career readiness
  • 68% of girls placed more value on mentoring and networking than boys (61%) in helping them get a good job

Jack E. Kosakowski, president of Junior Achievement USA, said "... we're seeing that all teens are thinking very seriously about their career paths... telling us they want to channel this energy and invest in their future careers... "


According to the JA-ING poll, girls are still lagging behind boys in choosing careers in math and science - only 10% of girls picked engineering and science versus 19% of boys, and two% of girls are pursuing careers in computers versus eight% of boys. However, girls are choosing careers that are and will continue to be in high demand - 20% of girls want to be doctors versus only nine% of boys, and 13% of girls are pursuing teaching versus four% of boys. Girls are selecting those jobs which tend to be more in demand, which should further tilt the employment scales in their favor.

In contrast with other studies gauging adult job satisfaction, which currently is at its lowest levels in more than twenty years, teens remain confident in their abilities to get their ideal jobs.  

The Survey indicates that almost 90% of US boys and girls ages 12-17 have confidence they will have their ideal job one day. 65% of respondents were very confident they would have their ideal job, and 25% were extremely confident. Only 9% were not very confident, and none expressed no confidence in their likelihood of finding their ideal job.

Confidence In Having An Ideal Job One Day

Confidence Level

% of Respondents

Extremely confident


Very confident


Not very confident


Source: JuniorAchievement/ING, March 2010

The Survey found that an overwhelming majority of teens said they'd forego getting that perfect job for the opportunity to make a difference in the world. When asked to identify which factors would motivate them to sacrifice getting the ideal job, more teens chose "having a positive impact on society" than "being well paid," "having decision-making responsibilities," having a job that was "extremely challenging," and a job that provided "publicity and recognition." 

Teens are willing to sacrifice their ideal job for a variety of reasons. With multiple responses allowed, 84% of respondents would settle for a less-than-ideal job to have a positive impact on society.

Reason for Settling For "Less Than Ideal Job" (% of Respondents)


% of Respondents

Could have a positive impact on society


Well paid


Have decision-making responsibilities


Extremely challenging


Provides publicity and recognition


Source: JuniorAchievement/ING, March 2010

Teens entering the workforce today face one of the worst recessions in decades but remain optimistic about their future careers. 90% of teens are confident they will one day have their ideal job, according to the study.

Although teens are mostly confident about finding their ideal job, a sizable percentage admits to worrying about their job prospects. With multiple responses allowed, 36%% of respondents say they are more worried about their future job prospects today than they were a year ago, with 38% saying they are less worried. Another 26% have the same level of worry, and 1% are unsure.

The economy and the unemployment are the two biggest reasons respondents who feel more worried have those increased fears. Not having enough real world experience and not knowing what career to pursue are other leading worries.

Reasons For Worrying About Future Job Prospects

Reason for Worry

% of Respondents

The economy


The unemployment rate


Not enough "real world" experience


Don't know what career


Grades not good enough


Not prepared by school


Source: JuniorAchievement/ING, March 2010

When asked what factors are very important to helping them get a good job (with multiple responses allowed), respondents overwhelmingly chose factors directly within their control. 93% cited believing in yourself and getting good grades, while 92% said graduating from college/technical school and high school are very important.

Very Important Considerations in Getting Good Job (Multiple Response OK)


% of Respondents

Believing in yourself


Getting good grades


Graduating from college or tech/vocational school


Graduating from high school


Team player, communicator, leader


Job shadowing or student business competitions


Extracurricular activities


Being mentored or networking


Source: JuniorAchievement/ING, March 2010

With multiple responses allowed, 87% of respondents said school can help them prepare for a successful career by helping them understand more clearly how what they're learning now will be useful later. And about the same number said schools could provide more outside-school opportunities.

School Help Required to Prepare for Successful Career

School Help

% of Respondents

Help understand more clearly how current learning useful later


Provide more outside school opportunities


More programs on working with others


More career counseling




Source: JuniorAchievement/ING, March 2010

Kosakowski  concludes that "Teens' optimism and energy are inspiring... teens are telling us they want to channel this energy and invest in their future careers..."

Rhonda Mims, president, ING Foundation, says that  "... programs such as JA Job Shadow... provide a multi-faceted approach to teaching career skills... give students the foundational tools to build a successful career... provide important positive role models in the classroom volunteer who delivers the curriculum and the mentor whom the students shadow in the workplace... "

For a full survey abstract, please visit here, or more information about ja-ing, please go here.


Next story loading loading..