Summer jobs are scarce for teens this year. According to the US Labor Department, the unemployment rate for teens age 16-19 is currently around 24%. This is bad news for young people who would like to earn cash to save for college or to move out of the family home or to make major purchases like cars and computers. A lack of work experience can also be a Catch-22 as you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get the experience without one.
Here are some suggestions for young people who are looking for ways to earn money and gain experience this summer:
Do take the job search seriously. Filling out one application and then waiting for a call back doesn’t cut it these days unless you are very lucky. You have to treat finding work as a job in and of itself. That means putting in a couple of hours every day completely focused on getting a job.
Aim to visit at least 2 or 3 businesses a day to fill out applications. Dress in clean, pressed clothing and make sure that your grooming is impeccable. Come prepared with your own pen and a handy list of references including phone numbers. It’s best to come on your own instead of with a group of friends. If it’s possible, ask to give the application directly to the manager on duty or person in charge of hiring.
It’s okay to call and follow up on your application if you haven’t heard anything in a week, but don’t be too pushy or rude. Remember there are many people looking for jobs so don’t take it personally if you don’t get hired after the first, third or even twelfth application you turn in.
If you are asked for a resume but don’t have any job experience, don’t panic. You can write a functional resume that highlights the skills you’ve learned from volunteer work, extracurricular activities and academic experience.
Be sure to take advantage of your network. You never know when a family friend or neighbor will have the scoop on a summer hire program or can put in a good word for you at a business. This is where being a good, responsible kid for most of your life pays off! In general, people are glad to help you if they can, as long as you are respectful when you ask. Don’t be shy about letting people know that you are looking for a job and would be grateful for any leads.
If You Can’t Find a Traditional Job
You don’t have to give up on earning money and experience just because you can’t find an employer. Motivated teens with good work ethics can make good money by working for themselves. This is also a great option for teens who will need significant amounts of time off during the summer to attend camps, workshops or lengthy family vacations.
Here are a few ideas for teens to make money:
- Babysitter/parent’s helper.
- Pet walking/sitting
- Mowing lawns and other yard work
- Computer repair or backup
- Sell cold drinks/snacks at parks (be sure to check local regulations before setting out with your cooler!)
Most teens start their entrepreneurial activities by offering their services to family friends and neighbors to get a few good references then branch out from there. It’s often possible to stay busy all summer just from word of mouth referrals, but you can also advertise on Craigslist, bulletin boards at local businesses and churches and free weekly papers.
Be sure to be cautious before going to a stranger’s home and make a plan with your parents or another trusted adult that details what you will do in case you don’t feel safe.
Other Ways to Spend Your Summer
While it would be nice to earn some cash, you can also gain experience and learn skills by doing volunteer work in your community. You can start your search by Googling “volunteer opportunities” + “your city”. Volunteer work is not only personally rewarding, you can also use it to show future employers that you are responsible, civil-minded and the kind of person who takes action.
Many school systems and local universities have summer enrichment programs that can help you develop academic skills and talents. If finances are a concern, most have need-based aid or scholarships available. Take full advantage of any and all opportunities available for you to learn and grow as a person. This is not only innately rewarding, but will also look great on your applications to colleges and for future employment.
Do any MoneyNing readers have any tips or stories to share with today’s teens that will help them land that first job or start their own business? How did you spend summers as a teen?