Help Your Teen Get a Great Summer Job
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Money, Jobs, & College
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Summer is coming and your teen might be thinking of looking for work. In a tight economy, job hunting is more frustrating than ever and especially for kids. So here are some tips to consider with your child that might help him or her figure this out and get hired.
- Decide if you really want a job. Before you go looking for work, decide on your commitment to working at all. Do you really need the money? Would you have as good a summer if you didn’t work but instead focused on volunteer work, an unpaid internship, or working on a creative project of your own? Most jobs put a dent in your schedule and require you to put up with things you might prefer not to. So decide at the beginning if working is how you want to spend your summer.
- Consider when, where and how you want to work. Think about your preferences and limitations. Do you want to work early in the day or do you want to be able to sleep in? Do you need a job that is within walking distance of your home or on the bus line? Would you prefer to work indoors or outdoors and with people or with machinery? Do you want to work with your hands? You will be more successful if you don’t have trouble getting to work on time and if the work, once you get there, is interesting to you.
- Think of who you know who might give you a job. Forget for a moment about working at Target and think instead of the small business owner in your neighborhood or church. Who knows you and might give you a break – or might know someone else who could? Let people know that you’re looking for work. It’s okay to apply at Target but think of small businesses too.
- Watch out for scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Get-rich-quick come-ons are for suckers, not for you. If it were that easy to get hired and that easy to make a ton of money, don’t you think everyone would be rich already? Keep your flim-flam radar on alert!
- Start early. Don’t wait until school is out to start looking for a job. Start thinking now about your job prospects and see if you can get something lined up early. You might need to agree to start while school is still in session – can you do that?
- Project a great image now. Businesses are looking for employees they can trust to do a good job and not create trouble for them. So make certain you project that image, starting right now. Dress neatly, stay out of trouble, hang around with responsible kids. Remember that since your best employment prospects are among the people who know you from everyday life, make sure your everyday life represents you well as a good hire.
- Consider creating your own job. You know stuff. Turn your knowledge into money by teaching children (how to speak Spanish, how to draw, how to play the guitar, how to hit a baseball); by doing household tasks (mowing lawns, cleaning garages, taking care of pets, planting gardens, painting walls); or by doing specialized tasks (planning birthday parties, creating websites, managing a business’s Facebook page, being a mother’s helper). Starting a business isn’t easy but it does guarantee that you’ll get, if not gobs of money, then gobs of experience. Think again of the sort of situation you want to work in and how you will get to your clients. Consider start-up costs for equipment and check into your local laws about forming a seasonal business. Put together a marketing plan and ask prospective clients what they’d need you to do.
- Once you’ve got a job, stick with it. Unless you discover that the job is really awful, dangerous, or sleazy, try to stick it out. It’s harder to find a job if you quit – employers don’t want to hire quitters. And the things you hate about your work might be things that will wind up being the most valuable in a character-building sort of way. At least give a new job a chance to turn into something fine.
And here’s a last tip for parents: if you hire your own kid to work for you over the summer, set out the job duties, hours, payment schedule and everything else just as if this were a “real” job. You’ll be happier and there will be less conflict if you do.