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Summer Jobs for Teens: The Hunt

Prepare your teen for the working world. Our tips can help you teach him about the job-finding process. Three good reasons for your teen to take a summer job are:

  • Earn cash
  • Build character
  • Prepare for a career

    Earn Cash
    Which jobs are more lucrative: those that pay a flat rate or an hourly rate? Hourly rate jobs have higher earning potential if the number of hours is expandable.

    If you were to compare a six-week, flat-rate camp counselor job paying $600 (working 30 hours a week) to a six-week babysitting job earning $5 an hour (working 30 hours a week), you would see that the babysitting job (hourly wage) pays substantially more — $600 (flat rate) vs. $900 (hourly rate).

    If cash were the only criterion, and flat-rate jobs all paid like the camp-counselor job, hourly rate jobs with expandable hours would be the only jobs that teens and their parents would want!

    But even though cash is nice, it's not the only criterion for choosing a summer job. It's important to think about character-building and career preparation, too.

    Character-building
    Your teen should be on the lookout for jobs that require:

  • Responsibility for an activity
  • Accountability to a boss and to others on the job
  • Discipline of attendance, punctuality, and dress code
  • Communications skills needed to deal with customers or others on the job
  • Interpersonal skills to resolve difficulties on the job
  • Opportunities for creativity and initiative to improve the organization and help others

    These may sound like lofty goals for jobs that are often as mundane as serving ice cream at a snack bar, but the benefits are definitely real, and the skills invaluable in the adult workplace.

    Discussing your teen's interests and desires over a relaxed meal or on a long car trip is a good way to start a conversation about summer jobs. Talking about the pros and cons of taking a summer job can be a very rewarding parent/child experience, as long as the parent does a lot of listening, and the child cooperates by talking!

    How to Find a Job
    There are many ways to find a job. Investigate the following:

  • School guidance or placement counselors — Ask your child's school counseling office for leads about summer jobs. Many cities and towns offer programs that help place teens in paid and unpaid internships.
  • Educational consultants — Fees can be hefty, but the opportunities uncovered can be amazing, including internships on newspapers, study abroad, music camps, sports camps, and much more.
  • Creating jobs that do not presently exist — For example, does the local garden-supply center need extra help in the summer?
  • Newspaper want ads
  • Internet
  • Word of mouth
  • Advertising — For example, use the bulletin boards at supermarkets, or put fliers in mailboxes to advertise lawn-mowing, dog-walking, etc.

    To Spend or to Save?
    Talk to your teen about the money she will be earning. Will she need it for tuition, or is it just for spending?

    One possibility is to decide upfront that half of the money earned is for spending and half is for saving. If your teen doesn't have her own bank account, open one now. You both can decide whether she should use the savings as spending money for the following school year, put it toward a desired big purchase, or invest it for the future.

    Never Too Young to Invest
    If your teen does save or invest her summer earnings, the amount can grow to become substantial, especially if he saves/invests for a number of years.

    For example, if your teen were able to save $2,400 in summer earnings each year for five years (8th-12th grade), and invest it at 6 percent, she would accumulate more than $13,000 — quite a sum, even when compared to the cost of a year's college tuition or a new car.

    If teens opt for a less lucrative endeavor — such as volunteering or an unpaid internship — where will their spending money come from? In this case, parents could offer to provide an allowance and regard it as an investment in their child's future.

    When the Job Is Over
    At the end of the summer, you and your teen should evaluate his work experience. Begin by asking him these questions:

  • Have you gained skills that you'll put to good use in the future?
  • Has the money you made gone to a good cause?
  • Are you rested and ready to begin a new school year?
  • Do you now have a clearer idea about what your future may hold?
  • Did you receive a written recommendation for your portfolio?
  • Do you have a better idea of the value of a dollar?
  • Do you have a better understanding about the importance of saving?

    Asking your teen these questions will help her get a better idea of whether she wants to return to the same job next summer. If she doesn't, she'll have a better sense of the kind of job she hopes to obtain in the future.

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