Career Coach: Helping your teen to land a summer job

June 19, 2011

Facing the worst U.S. job market in recent memory, many families have been worried about helping their teenagers find a summer job. According to the Employment Policies Institute, unemployment rates for teens (16- to 19-year-olds) averaged more than 25 percent in 25 states in April. The rate in Washington is the nation’s worst — 48.9 percent. Teens are forced to compete with better-skilled, more-educated adults for jobs.

For families helping their teens this summer, don’t give up yet. It might take longer, and they may not get the exact job they wanted, but there are still opportunities. Teens, you may still find summer jobs if you follow a few suggestions:

·Make a flier describing your qualifications to hand out to neighbors and family friends. List the type of jobs you are looking for and your qualifications.

·Create a one-page resume for potential employers. I have heard many employers talk about getting resumes from teens and being really impressed with their initiative. Use online tools to learn how to create resumes. Your first resume really just needs to let others know something about your background that gets them interested in talking with you further. Include technical and computer skills, relevant coursework, educational accomplishments, awards, work history, etc. Get someone to look it over before you hand it out to make sure it is clear, concise, looks professional, and has correct grammar and spelling.

·Clean up your Facebook page. Have a parent or relative review it because employers may look at it to learn more about you. Get rid of pictures or stories that would not be seen as professional.

·Research jobs that interest you. Learn as much as you can about your chosen field, and what employers are looking for. Tailor your resume to reflect your relevant attributes. Look at sites that focus on part-time jobs for teens, such as www.groovejob.com, www.snagajob.com, www.coolworks.com, www.simplyhired.com and www.studentjobs.com. Look at other typical job sites such as www.monster.com, www.careerbuilder.com or search Facebook for summer jobs or part-time jobs to find groups set up by employers who are hiring.

·Check local job sites for your city or state at the library or Chamber of Commerce or help-wanted ads in the local newspapers. Keep an eye out for help-wanted signs at local businesses.

·Build a network. Start with people you know who might be willing to help you. Set up a meeting with a favorite teacher or guidance counselor who can share strategies or contacts. Talk to your parents and relatives — maybe they can set up a meeting with one of their friends who works at a place you are interested in. Be sure to send thank-you cards to everyone who helps you along the way. Building your network isn’t just about getting a job — it’s also about building good relationships.

·Appearance and professionalism are really important for setting the right impression. I recently counseled an 18-year-old on what to wear to an interview with a consulting firm for a summer internship — a sports jacket, slacks and dress shirt. He was planning on wearing sneakers (with the dress slacks), which we had to replace with dress shoes. He got the job, and has since been enjoying wearing dress clothes to work daily.

·Be confident — this will set you apart in interviews. Role-play or practice with a friend or family member how you might handle various job interview questions. Practice shaking hands and giving positive eye contact.

·Follow up. If employers say they will get back to you and you haven’t heard anything, call back or stop by. Don’t wait more than two weeks. Be professional, polite and persistent to let an employer know you are serious about working at their firm. Most people do not follow up at all.

·Be prepared to hear “no.” You won’t get an offer from every place you apply, so know how to handle it. Always leave employers with a positive impression of you. Maybe they will have a future job available, so let them know that you appreciate their time, and ask them to let you know if something becomes available in the future.

If you don’t get the paying job that you want, volunteer for a firm in the area of your interest or volunteer at a nonprofit organization. It’s a way of showing future employers you have what it takes. I’ve known many people who got great jobs or outstanding references for future jobs by first volunteering (with no pay) to work at a firm. In this tough economy, persistence, professionalism and confidence should be important for helping you land that part-time job.

Joyce E.A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at jrussell@rhsmith.umd.edu.

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