By Jill Moroson, MSW
A summer job is a rite of passage for many teenagers, and spring is the time to search. But is the recession upsetting your teen’s plan of finding a job? Will your child be competing with this year’s crop of (so far) jobless college graduates desperately seeking work? Right now, you’re probably worrying that your teen won’t find something productive to do, and will just fritter away the summer months by sleeping late and watching TV. And if your teen isn’t the “go-getter” type, you may be feeling frustrated and tired of all the nagging to get started looking for work.
The good news is that most traditional summer jobs still exist. Camps, ice cream stores, pools, and country clubs still need cheap and temporary help that teens are in the best position to provide.
While some jobs are out there, the process of finding them may elude the average young person. As a parent, you can help your teen get started by sharing these constructive tips:
- Create a list. Ask your teen: What do you like/dislike? What are you good at? Brainstorm places to apply, consider limitations, (such as transportation), and keep this list current with names, dates and follow up notations.
- Do it right. Most large employers now require an online application, which the computer will “reject” if it’s not completely filled out. As with any application, answer every question. If something doesn’t apply, write N/A so that the employer–and computer– knows you didn’t overlook it.
- Keep it personal. Why not walk in or make a phone call to allow an employer to make a connection and put a face (or voice) to one of the hundreds of applications received? Apply where you live and shop, to increase that connection.
- Look smart. Always look good enough for an impromptu interview. Being neatly dressed, making good eye contact, smiling, and offering a firm handshake will take you far.
- Follow up. Most applicants don’t, so here is another chance to stand out. Being enthusiastic and articulate are important skills in short supply.
As with any job search, it’s about WHO you know. Parents, who do YOU know who might need a job done over the summer and might appreciate an ambitious young person to do it? Making that connection can mean the difference between your teen’s landing an interview and being one of a crowd of anonymous applicants. As in “real life,” your opening a door may be just the way your teen is able to get that first (summer) job. By watching you use your contacts, your child learns a valuable life skill: how to network.
If a paid job doesn’t pan out, don’t overlook the value of a summer internship or volunteer work. The experience gleaned can be critical. Sometimes volunteering can steer a person to discover his or her field of choice. Pocket money can still be found by doing chores for neighbors and babysitting, the old teen standbys. In the end, all work experience is valuable, and any job will find its place on the resume, which will be an important job search tool in the future.
By Jill Moroson, MSW, Employment Specialist, Jewish Community Services Career Services