Summertime and the living is easy . . . unless you’re a teenager looking for summer employment. In a job market with unemployment hovering around 7.5%, and with teenage summer employment much higher than that, it can be easy to brush off the exercise as “why bother?” However, the journey to find employment can be enriching and worthwhile even if it comes without the guarantee of a job.
Parents are a teen’s natural resource and sounding board for advice on the job search. You may not be a job coach by profession, but you do have the inside story on the job seeker in question. Accepting a little coaching for yourself will position you to be a valuable asset for your teen.
Who do you think you’re dealing with?
Help your teen take an assessment of their interests and strengths. How do they like to spend their free time? If you daughter is a movie buff, she may not be interested in working in a book store. Are they an outgoing “people person”, or do they shun the spotlight. A shy teen may be better suited to restocking shelves in a drugstore than being stationed at a busy checkout stand. What’s the setting on their “body clock”? Is your son the first one up or the last one in bed? If he’s a night owl, most likely working the early shift in a diner is not going to result in lots of tips.
Looking for jobs in all the right places
Begin looking in the usual places such as newspaper want ads and Craigslist. Snagajob.com allows for a search using “teen” as a keyword to bring up jobs appropriate for teens. In-person inquiries at stores or businesses your teen frequents can lead to combining a job with an established interest. Don’t forget the power of networking. Encourage your teen to speak with adults they know, such as neighbors, relatives, scout leaders, and coaches. Any one of these could be a business owner or know a business owner in search of summer help. Adults that have a history with your teen may be a referral directly to a job or listed as a reference on an employment application.
Put the best foot forward
Even if an employment application doesn’t require a resume, it’s always a good idea to have one written and ready to attach. A resume offers your teen a vehicle to highlight personal strengths and experience. This is especially helpful if your son or daughter thinks talking about the value they would bring to a job is bragging. If it’s the first resume, help them get started by looking online for sample teen resumes. If your teen has a resume from last summer’s job search, help them freshen it up with job experience and skills gained in the past year.
Let’s role with it
Let’s face it, this job search is just the beginning for your teenager. A lifetime of employment lies ahead with many opportunities to speak to prospective employers and get comfortable (or not) with the interview process. Offer to role play, including giving your teen a chance to be the interviewer. Encourage them to ask you the questions they would dread the most so you can give them some pointers on answering. Again, use the internet to search for sample interview questions for teens.
Not all roads lead to Rome . . . or a paycheck
Even with the best preparation and enthusiasm, success in finding a summer job is not a given. If your teenager isn’t able to land a job, it doesn’t mean the time spent in the search was a waste. The process has, hopefully, been a time of self-discovery that will serve them well in other areas of their life and their “career” at school. A resume in their pocket and search experience under their belt will give them a head start for next year.
If all else fails, encourage your teen to do something meaningful during the summer. Take a class, join a league, learn a new skill, offer help to parents, neighbors and friends, babysit, pet sit, mow lawns, whatever. Every experience good or bad is better than no experience at all. Experiences begin to tell all of us who we are, what we love, what we hate, what we care about, what we’re good at, what we’re not, and that begins to tell us who we are.
Jobstacles: Is it possible to have too many jobs? You can hear or read this June 7, 2013 NPR Marketplace segment prepared by Youth Radio, which quotes Bonnie Bell, Career and Life Coach at Bell Investment Advisors.
To read the full 2013 NPR Marketplace segment click here.