Teen-agers frustrated with the political tugs-of-war over summer jobs might try looking for work in the private sector or creating their own business opportunities.

Sixteen-year-old Gunner Goodnow has been minding his own business in Alexandria for two years. "At 14 I wasn't old enough to get a summer job, but I knew there were a million things I could be doing," he recalls. "People weren't going to come to me. So I decided to go to them."

Dressed in neat, casual clothes and armed with ambition and charm, Goodnow knocked on dozens of doors in his neighborhood.

"I greeted people with a nice hello, told them who I was, where I lived and said if they needed anything done around their house I was available," he said. In a few days calls started coming in, and Goodnow's calendar became crammed with lawn-moving, furniture-moving, painting and other odd job appointmens.

"People I worked for told their friends about me, and I wound up earning a couple hundred dollars that summer," says Goodnow, who got this year's summer job as an electrician's assistant by calling all the electrical contractors listed in the yellow pages. "You've got to get out there, try and not give up."

Here are some other summer-job tips for teen-agers from Washington area youth-employment counselors.

Getting Ready

Make a list of your skills, such as typing or gardening, and your past jobs, even if they haven't been for pay. Volunteer work, painting a shed, even selling Girl Scout cookies might help convince an employer that you are a responsible person.

Line up several references. Ask former baby-sitting customers, newspaper route managers or teachers if you may use their names as references.

Get a work permit (if you are under 18) and a Social Security card if your prospective employer requires one. Your school guidance counselor can provide a work permit, which must be signed by your legal guardian. If you don't already have a Social Security number, you can apply for one by bringing signed identification (school ID, birth certificate) and proof of age and citizenship (school record, passport) to your local Social Security office. If you stress that you need a Social Security number to get a job, you should be able to get a card within a week, as opposed to the general waiting period of a month.

Making Contacts

Spread the word to your parents, their friends and neighbors that you're looking for a job.

Call or visit your local manpower or employment office, many of which have special youth summer employment programs.

Check with the Chamber of Commerce, temporary agencies, neighborhood stores or facilities that operate only during the summer, such as amusement parks or swimming pools.

Fast-Food Chains

At fast-food restaurants, youngsters age 16 and older can walk in and ask to see the manager. Avoid bothering him or her during peak meal times from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m. The best time is between 2 and 5 p.m.

A neat, well-groomed appearance can help make a good first impression. You don't need a coat and tie, but slacks, or a skirt for a girl, are appropriate.

Be honest about the times you will be able to work. Don't try to impress a manager by saying you're available for long or late hours if you can't meet that promise.


Decide what you are capable of doing. Lawn-mowing, baby-sitting, plant-watering and pet care (walking, feeding and bathing) are good summer opportunities.

Look around your neighborhood and think about services people need. Can you drive their cars to the service station and wait in gas lines for them or take their children to a doctor's appointment? Or call yourself an "odd jobber" and offer to perform any reasonable task, such as helping a Sunday skipper spruce up a sailboat.

Knock on neighbors' doors or distribute flyers in mailboxes, on supermarket bulletin boards or in laundromats. Set reasonable fees. Baby-sitting rates run about $1.25 to $2.25 an hour, depending on the number of children and hours worked, according to Terry Lynch, Arlington County job development administrator. Lawn mowing can run $5 to $10 or more for a large yard, with additional gas charge if you bring your own mower.


Be careful when responding to an ad, advises Alexandria Youth Employment Counselor Lolly Zipp. If you sense something fishy, like a baby-sitting job that starts at midnight, have your parents or a responsible adult check it out first.

Remember that the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act includes child labor, minimum wage and overtime provisions. If you discover a violation of the law, call the local office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hours Division - in Maryland and the District at 436-6767, and in Northern Virginia at 557-0373.