Teens looking to supplement their summer fun by mowing lawns or working in fast food restaurants find themselves facing stiff competition from older, more experienced workers. This increase in competition coupled with fewer available jobs in general means tough times for teens.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the teenage unemployment rate is 21.7 percent, up from last year's 15.8 percent -- the highest rate in nearly 20 years. One job placement firm, Challenger, Gray and Christmas, projects that this could be the first summer since 1954 that fewer than 1 million teens will find summer jobs.
Although jobs are scarce and teens are now vying for the same positions as out-of-work adults, there are still a number of opportunities available for teens who know where to look and how to handle the new competition.
Where to Start
Pound the Pavement
Teens looking for jobs should try going old school. Although it might be tempting to start a job search on the Web, teens might find more luck hitting main street and local malls in search of help-wanted signs. But don't despair if shop windows aren't littered with ads.
Teens should chat up the current employees in stores, movie theaters and restaurants. Ask, "Do you know if they're hiring now?" There might be fewer openings, but some still exist for those who aren't afraid to ask.
When out on the hunt, teens should also be ready -- ready to interview immediately and start right away. Teens should dress appropriately, bring references and be ready to start working. No employer is going to hold a job until the family comes home from vacation.
Flexibility should also extend to the type of work a teenager is seeking. Try looking for local seasonal employment like yard work. Many people can't afford to pay for a professional service but could be willing to pay a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn. And babysitting for is always a moneymaker for trustworthy teens.
Networking for Teens
Parents can help their kids by asking friends and family if they need a "teen of all trades" to help out this summer and Web sites that teens use already can be powerful job-finding tools. Teens should get the word out about their job search on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace pages.
This is also a good time to get familiar with LinkedIn, which has created a primer for new college grads that may prove helpful for teens, too. Not only should they use their own social network contacts, but mom's and dad's connections on LinkedIn could be valuable too.
Assistance from the Stimulus
States, cities and towns are getting their share of $1.2 billion designated for the summer job market for ages 14-24. This cash infusion will create six-to-eight-week temporary jobs and paid internships in everything from digital media to environmental cleanup.
These are jobs that are strictly earmarked for teens, which means no competition from older workers. Check with your mayor's office or the local unemployment office to find out more about these opportunities.
Teens could try taking the lemonade stand idea to the next level by starting a business. They can turn their passions into profits by giving guitar lessons, making jewelry, or teaching yoga or rollerblading. Don't discount what can emerge from humble beginnings; Bill Gates made his first computer in his family's garage. And being entrepreneurial looks great on a college resume.
Teens who are unable to find a paying job should be encouraged to volunteer. Part of having a job is developing a work ethic and gaining new skills and a sense of purpose. This rewarding option can be done by volunteering in an animal shelter or at a local hospital and is as easy as running a cash register at a pizza shop.
Facing New Competition
The idea of competing with adults can be daunting for teens, but there are a few things teens can leverage to their advantage.
Teens have the ability to work flexible hours, including nights and weekends. An open schedule makes teens desirable employees as many parents are unable to work those hours.
Young workers should also be armed with an "I'll do anything" attitude. This willingness to do just about anything may not be appropriate for older professionals, but for teens it can be a door-opener.
Price might be the most attractive reason an employer has for hiring a teenager. Teens don't expect to get rich from a summer job so they can be more flexible. Employers are counting on this, which is why they might be willing to hire a rookie as opposed to a seasoned professional.
As far as how much teens should charge, ask around. Solicit suggestions from adults as to what they would pay, or do pay, for the services the teen would provide, keeping in mind that one of the pluses of hiring a teenager is that they are cheaper than a professional service.