8 Ways for Kids to Find a Summer Job

Last Updated Jan 12, 2011 5:44 PM EST

Summer jobs for students are going to be difficult to find again this year. The teen unemployment rate stands at 25.4% and would be nearly twice that if not for the fact that so many kids have given up and don't even look for work. The earlier your kids get started the better.

This may seem an odd topic to bring up while much of the nation is buried in snow. But employers have a long lead-time when it comes to teens and college students. For example, the deadline for applying for summer internships at most large companies is Jan. 15, if not earlier. That's not the case for summer jobs. But those too will be filling up soon.

With jobs scarce, a lot of parents may encourage their kids to volunteer or take summer classes instead of job hunt, or plan to become their own boss by lining up regular work as, say, a babysitter, dog walker or gardener.

Those are not bad options if your child can't find a real paycheck. But keep in mind that summer work isn't just about the money or having something to do; it's about learning to be responsible (getting to work on time everyday) and to handle money (saving, spending and investing the income); it's about gaining experience (building a resume that will jumpstart their career) and making connections (getting exposure to people who may serve as a valuable reference or future employer).

Summer jobs are a great way to learn about customer service and what it's like to collaborate with people of different cultures and values. Summer work also builds self-esteem, which is useful when interviewing for a college, sorority or fraternity, or for work.

You may be able to help your teens line up a good summer job by getting them to:

  • Go back to the well Most seasonal employers begin their search with last year's workers. If your kids were employed, liked their job and performed well, odds are they'll be rehired.
  • Get the word out Kids should tell everyone that they are looking for a job, especially the adults in their life - teachers, coaches, counselors, their doctor or veterinarian, and parents of their friends. Connections work.
  • Emphasize their youth In this tough economy adults will grab a lot of the seasonal work. But students may have an edge if they play up their flexible schedule and computer skills, including their adeptness at navigating social networking sites where companies increasingly want a presence.
  • Be professional Even students need a resume highlighting their interests and aspirations. They should dress well, speak clearly and state their school and their major as part of any introduction. They should also be clear about start and end dates.
  • Explore government jobs The government has seasonal teen-specific openings that pay well. Search for them at jobsearch.studentjobs.gov, or go to usajobs.com to see listings for students at military bases.
  • Explore camp jobs These are usually teen specific and offer a wide variety of opportunities and locations.
  • Fix the 'tude Hiring managers say that a smile matters more than experience, grades or availability. They want someone with energy and a positive attitude, and who will learn and take direction without complaining.
  • Understand that a job is a job Even the best jobs are not fun all the time. The kids should be ready to accept grunt work along with the good stuff. The key is for them to remember that they are earning money, gaining experience, and making contacts.
And, yes, they're staying busy too.

Photo courtesy Flickr user kevinwburkett
More on MoneyWatch:

  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.