Youth Culture Window
As the month of May closes out, and the days grow longer and warmer, teenagers’ thoughts naturally gravitate toward proms, final exams, and (most parents hope) summer jobs.
But the faltering U.S. economy over the last few years—which has shot adult unemployment to near 10%—has made it tougher for teenagers to find summer employment. Why? Many summer jobs that adolescents have traditionally counted on have been getting cut or going to adults. The stats lay it out: In the year 2000, when the economy was rosy, nearly one of every two teens (45%) held summer jobs. But when the market began its tumble in 2008, a mere third of teens held summer jobs. And last summer was the worst since the end of World War II: Only 28.5% of teens worked for wages.
So, what does 2010 look like? Well, it depends on what research you agree with.
Findings from Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies are pretty grim. The most telling stat? The predicted teen summer employment rate for 2010 is 27.4%—a more than 1% drop-off from last summer’s rate. Yikes!
But other outfits say it ain’t so. According to estimates by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global outplacement firm, teens may find it easier this summer to find work—as long as they take an “entrepreneurial” approach to landing employment. That means, among other tactics, expanding their searches beyond seasonal and (what used to be) teen-only or teen-friendly jobs, which many adults are now taking.
“It is unlikely that summer employment gains among teens will reach pre-recession levels, but we should definitely see increased hiring compared to 2008 and 2009, which experienced the weakest summer teen job growth since the 1950s,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of the firm.
The CGC report notes that while teens are likely to face stiff competition from older workers for positions in retail and restaurants, they’ll have less resistance to hiring by day camps, neighborhood pools, and amusement parks.
Where to Go from Here?
However dismal the stats, teenagers who want summer jobs will have to spend more time and more energy—and above all, exercise a lot more creativity—when searching for those now-more-elusive summer gigs. The following are some tips and encouragement for teens facing an idle summer:
- Get off the computer! We all know that our tech-savvy teens are more likely than any other age group to utilize the Internet to conduct their summer job searches. But the CGC report says that teens need to take it quite a few steps further. “Nothing beats actually walking into a business, introducing yourself to the manager, and asking about job opportunities. The personal touch sets the groundwork in building a rapport that will separate you from electronic candidates,” Challenger said. “By getting out from behind the computer, young job seekers may also find opportunities that don’t exist in the digital realm. Many mom-and-pop stores do not advertise job openings on the Internet.”
- Be an odd-jobs entrepreneur. This is where some of the best opportunities may be this summer. “Many families are eliminating monthly expenses such as lawn care and home cleaning,” Challenger reported. “However, these tasks still need to be completed and families, while strapped for cash, are no less strapped for time. A teenager who can provide these services at a fraction of what professional services charge may be able to drum up enough business to earn a steady income.” In other words, teens need to break in their shoe leather and sell their services to their neighbors. (And they shouldn’t be concerned or embarrassed by odd jobs or feel that they’re “beneath them.” Window washing, junk hauling, baby-sitting, etc., are needed services that build character and earn teens who do them more respect than they might assume.)
- Network to find work. This is Rule #1 for out-of-work adults, as most of the best opportunities don’t come through classified ads but through personal relationships. So teens need to utilize every connection they can muster. “Use your parents, friends, and your friends’ parents as sources for job leads,” Challenger advised. “Try to meet with hiring managers face-to-face, as opposed to simply dropping off a completed application form with a random clerk at the sales counter.”
- Don’t throw in the towel before you’ve even started. A huge myth is that searching for a summer job isn’t worth the effort since so few are available. So tell your teens “don’t believe the hype.” It sounds oh-so-obvious, but it bears being shouted from the rooftops: If you’ve given up before you’ve even started, you’ve reduced your chances of finding a job right down to zero.
- Once you’ve started…keep trying (or See Spencer for Hire). According to the Wall Street Journal , Spencer Dickerson-Carey began applying for summer jobs in early 2009 by contacting more than 100 potential employers—and he received only two responses. Both were rejections! Finally Spencer was hired mid-summer to sell skin-care products at a mall kiosk, and he actually earned enough dough to purchase an old car. He’s feeling positive about 2010: “Hopefully this summer I’ll be able to get a better job because I already have sales experience.” The moral of Spencer’s tale? “Don’t stop looking,” he said. (Challenger added that it’s important that teens not become frustrated by failure. “Many teens give up after applying to 10 or 12 jobs, concluding that ‘no one is hiring teens this summer.’ Chances are good that there are more than 10 or 12 employers in your city or town, so it is necessary to cast a wider net. There are many summer job opportunities outside the confines of the local mall.”)
- Turn what you’re good at into cash. You’d think such advice is counterproductive when economic forecasts suggest teens’ best bets are nabbing anything and everything that opens up—but that depends on how creative teens are willing to be. One 18-year-old has harnessed his tech savvy for a decent home-based summer business. William McCraney converts home videos to DVDs on his laptop about 20 hours a week when he’s not in the classroom. His earnings turned into a television and new computer, as well as half the cost of a car. McCraney’s biggest challenge? “I have to tell a lot of people no,” he says. So make a list of your skills, get together with your friends and family members, and start brainstorming ways you can convert your know-how into a summer income.
The following are some links to sites that may help teens jump-start or enhance their summer job search (from the Riley Guide):
- A+ Summer Jobs (http://www.aplus-summerjobs.com). “The mission of A+ Summer Jobs is to provide reliable, innovative content and services that provide fun and meaningful work experiences for students and recent graduates. Through independent research, we identify outstanding life experience work and travel opportunities and help members choose the job that best suits their interests and abilities.”
- Summer Jobs (http://www.allensguide.com/summer-jobs). Job listings for camp counselors and others in seasonal programs.
- Back Door Jobs—Exciting Career Adventures (http://www.backdoorjobs.com). Mostly outdoorsy opportunities (ranch hands, resort help, wilderness employment, farm work, etc.).
- Cool Works (http://www.coolworks.com). “Cool Works is about you finding a seasonal job or career in some of the greatest places on Earth. Get a summer job in Yellowstone, Yosemite, or another national park. Find a summer job as a camp counselor. Ski resorts, ranches, theme parks, tour companies and more are waiting for you. Let Cool Works.com show you the way to live out your own amazing adventure!”
- SummerJobs.com (http://www.summerjobs.com). Many jobs for the summer months all over the world (and some for the fall as well). Teens should click on “search” and then select keywords or opt for a location search—they’ll also want to look at the Articles and Advice section for info on teen work permits.
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