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Summer Jobs for Teens: Assessing the Options

Now's the time to get an edge over the competition and start looking hard for that hot summer job!

"Do you, like, want fries with that?"
While it's true that most "real world" jobs available to high school students are in the service sectors, like working at the video store or flipping burgers, you aren't restricted to these "traditional" high school jobs if you start examining your options now.

Here are some tips to follow for summer success:

1. Take a talent inventory!
Do you have a particular ability or skill -- like designing websites or speaking a second language? Where could you put your special ability to use? Consider researching small Internet start-up companies in your area if you have Web skills or check out local libraries, non-profit organizations, consulting companies, or tutoring centers to capitalize on your language skills.

Network, baby!
Do you know people who work in companies or businesses that you think might be interesting? Don't be shy: Ask them to check out the prospects of a summer opportunity for you. Many of the best summer jobs -- ones that aren't advertised -- are discovered through "people" connections! Just ask around and remember to follow through with phone calls, letters, or email.

But I have no experience or special talents.
You don't have to be a prodigy to land a cool job that you love. Think about companies and organizations where business is likely to increase in the summer months. If you love the outdoors, then state parks and summer camps are a great place to start looking for a summer job.

If it's business experience you're after, check with the owner or manager of some companies you're interested in and tell them why you'd like to come aboard for the summer. They'll be impressed that you're such a go-getter.

2. Consider creating your own job.
Ever thought about being your own boss? You'd be surprised at how much you can earn by doing things for people. Organize a crew of your friends and create a lawn mowing or babysitting service.

Have a flair for cuisine? Plan the menu and then prepare and deliver picnic baskets for busy people who don't have time to cook. Think about other "service" ideas that people would pay you to perform for them.

As your own boss, you'll definitely have more responsibilities, but the monetary rewards can far outweigh the extra time and attention you'll devote to these entrepreneurial duties. And beyond the extra dollars, the leadership and management experience you'll gain is priceless.

3. Build on last year's summer experience.
If you had a good job last summer and want to return to it, make your intentions known with you employer right now. But don't stop there -- it may be time for a promotion! Especially if you had a great experience and all signs suggest they'd like to have you come back. Ask if your experience and knowledge can be translated into more responsibilities and/or additional hours.

4. All great work experiences aren't paid.
Consider a volunteer experience as an alternative or compliment to your summer job. Sometimes finding a paying job in a particular field that interests you just doesn't work out.

An unpaid volunteer internship can be a rewarding experience. Volunteering can also give you the background to find a paying job in the field you're interested in for next summer. Think of unpaid internships and volunteering as an investment with big future payback.

Don't forget: There's no better way to explore future career opportunities than to rub elbows with professionals who represent your career interests. Be observant, perform as many tasks as possible, and absorb all you can.

5. Getting Started: Laying the Groundwork
Okay great, so you have some ideas about what you might like to do this summer. Now how do you prepare to make the necessary contacts?

Though it's not anyone's idea of a great time, landing a great summer job means you need to work on a mini-resume that outlines your interests, skills, training, and experiences.


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