Creative Ideas for Teens' Summer Jobs

From camp counselor to intern, ideas for your teen's summer job.

ByTory Johnson via via logo

June 5, 2008 -- As the school year ends, it's time for teens to seek summer employment. June is a hot hiring month, with more than 1.5 million summer positions up for grabs for the 16- to 19-year old set, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm.

But it's a highly competitive market, so you have to know where to look.

Day Camp Counselors

Most sleepaway camps have filled the majority of their slots, but day camps are still looking. I called three dozen day camps at random located all over the country this week and all but one were still hiring.

Amusement Park Workers

This is the peak season for these attractions and they still need people to work the concession stands, sell tickets or run the games. And think of the perks of some free play -- that should get your teen out of the house.

Retail and Food Service

There's also the tried-and-true route of working in retail or restaurants. Your teen will have to pound the pavement or go to the mall. There are openings available for part-time help over the summer because -- of course -- that's when kids are out of school and spending money.

Start a Business

Encourage them to think entrepreneurial. Start a business such as dog walking, lawn maintenance or car washing. You can help them here by polling your friends to find out what chores they'd love to have taken off their hands.

Your teens can offer their services on a an hourly or per project basis -- with the bonus attraction of making their own hours. For the tech savvy group, creating Web sites or digital photo albums is an option.

Paid Internships

A unique one I found is CVS' Pathways to Pharmacy program. It's a paid internship program provided by the pharmacy giant specifically for high schoolers who are interested in math and science. They still have about 500 openings in various cities for the program, which runs eight to 10 weeks.

Niche Job Boards is a good resource for finding hourly summer employment in your local area. is another resource to explore.

The majority of paid teen summer jobs help build maturity and responsibility. That alone is a benefit for your kid's growth and development. If your son or daughter finds something in his or her future area of potential career interest -- such as the pharmacy program -- that's a bonus, but it isn't essential. Experience that's relevant to college admissions can also be gained by volunteering.

Teens can also explore the job postings on in your area for random odd jobs ranging from video game testers to focus group participants. (Remember never to pay money for such opportunities and help your teen verify the legitimacy of these postings before starting.)

Prep for Success

To get the job, your teen should follow some all-important search protocol.

First Impressions Count

Even though it's vacation for your kid, it's not for the employer who is looking for workers. The first impression your teen makes is all-important. No matter what job they're going after -- at the mall, the park or a camp -- they have to show up interview-ready: no flip-flops, cut-offs, ripped or revealing clothing. And they have to be interview-ready at all times. Don't just walk into a store looking for an application -- be ready to meet the manager on the spot.

Bring References

Your teen should also walk with two or three references in hand. They can be from a teacher, a former boss, a coach, a baby-sitting client -- anyone who can vouch for their maturity and personality. Walking in with these references will show the prospective employer that your teen has a track record of responsibility and is taking the position seriously enough to come in prepared.

Practice Interviews

You can help your teen with practice interviews, either with you or a family friend. Teens must be able to talk about themselves, why they want the job, their experience, etc. They have to be able to communicate that they want the job for more than just the cash -- they want to get something meaningful from the experience. This tells employers that they won't just take the money and run: They will approach the job with respect and dedication.

Be Flexible

Another key is flexibility. Every teen wants nights and weekends off, but they will have more options if they are willing to work some of the less-attractive shifts.


Don't wait for the phone to ring. When your teen is at the interview, he or she should should ask what the process is and when a decision will be made. Your teen should be persistent without being a pest -- check in once a week until it's been filled or they've been hired.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at

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