If your teen is lucky enough to be spending the summer sitting in a lifeguard stand or filling orders at the local coffee shop, take a moment to congratulate the resourcefulness it took. But what can teens do, now that we're already into July, if they haven't found a job yet despite pounding the pavement and going through the family's Rolodex?
It might be time for a new approach so they can still do something worthwhile with their remaining time off from school. It could be launching their own moneymaking enterprise. Or volunteering. Or maybe even working their way through the great works of literature at the library.
Some high school kids in her neighborhood who couldn't find regular jobs started a power-washing business, said Sarah Gish, publisher of The Summer Book: A Guide to Houston Day Camps and Classes for Kids and Teens. They've got a washer, and they're advertising they can power-wash driveways and houses, she said.
Gish recommended that teens looking for work design a flier with bullet points highlighting tasks they can take on such as dog washing, car washing or lawn mowing. They also can offer to water plants and trees — which could be an especially valuable service amid the drought.
Gish encourages teens not to give up searching for paid work. And that includes her own 16-year-old son, Alex Buchanan. He's working this month — shuttling among jobs at several summer camps — but that ends soon and he'll need another gig in July.
Buchanan recently applied at a movie theater; he also plans to go back to the grocery stores and restaurants where he submitted applications previously to ask if anything has opened up.
"I'm feeling pressure from my parents to get a job," Buchanan said.
It's really important for teens to learn to be assertive about going back to the places where they've already applied, Gish said. Grocery stores, for example, may have an opening one day and nothing the next.
Be friendly and outgoing, she said. And go directly to the manager to introduce yourself and say you're looking for a job. That way you have a connection with a decisionmaker.
In the meantime, teens can consider volunteering. Churches often have opportunities, said Gish, who suggested that teens talk to youth ministers to see what's available. Gish said many church-run soup kitchens welcome the youthful help.
Public libraries also use volunteers, she added.
Lack of stimulus funds
Another hurdle facing teenagers this year is that the federal jobs program, which was funded with stimulus funds in 2009 and 2010, has no money this summer.
Low-income teens, who have relied on that program for summer employment, are competing with adults for jobs, said Sharon Malveaux of Workforce Solutions in Houston.
She recommended that teens use online job search engines such as snagajob.com and indeed.com that focus on youth hiring.
And don't forget: Finding a job during one of the toughest summers in decades might even be a good topic for a college essay.