Land Your Summer Dream Job!
How to make serious cash, gain valuable life experience, learn about the real world—and maybe even have a blast.
School’s almost out for the summer. Yay! But now what? Well, think for a second about how awesome it would be to have a job. Not only would you earn money, but you’d also learn about how the world works, and who knows—you might even find your life’s passion (or realize that you never, ever want to sit at a desk all day, even if you were president of the entire company). And don’t worry about not being old enough. Many employers hire teens as young as 14—or even younger for more informal gigs, like babysitting, errand running, or yard work. You don’t need tons of experience to get a job, either—just grit, determination, and a nicely ironed interview outfit. So read on to find out what you need to know about taking that big leap from being a kid on the couch to a gainfully employed teen.
Finding a job might seem daunting. Using these strategies will help your search go smoothly—and you’ll learn a lot along the way.
Network, Network, Network.
Most jobs are found through “connections,” aka, people you already know. And those people don’t have to be Donald Trump to help you out. Who are these VIPs? Hint: You may not even have to leave your house to find some of them.
Parents. They know a lot of grown-ups, and grown-ups are the ones who will hire you. For instance, if you want to mow lawns, write an e-mail about why you’d be great at the job (e.g., you’re strong and have been mowing your family’s lawn for years). Ask your parents to forward it to everyone they know in your area.
Teachers. Whether you get all A’s in math, score the most baskets in PE, or just manage to show up to homeroom on time each day, there’s at least one adult at your school who is impressed with you. Seek out that person, say that you’re looking for work, and ask for help. Even if that person doesn’t have a direct connection to a job, he or she will likely have good suggestions for what type of gig would be best for your talents and skills.
Friends. Maybe that kid who sits behind you in chem works at the movie theater and could hook you up this summer. Or perhaps your best friend’s older sister needs an intern. Don’t hesitate to ask.
Neighbors. Ring your neighbors’ doorbells and let them know that you’re looking for summer work. You never know who might help you!
Social Media. Posting on Facebook or Twitter is a quick way to let your hundreds of friends and family members know that you’re looking for work. In the post, encourage the people in your online network to spread the word—the more your status update is shared or your tweet is retweeted, the more people you’ll reach.
Bonus Tip: Don’t end a conversation with anyone until you get the names of two other people who may be able to help you.
Pound the Pavement
Have your heart set on making espresso drinks at your favorite coffee shop? Desperate for the discount that comes with a retail job at Claire’s? Put on a brave face, walk right into a place where you want to work and ask if the manager is hiring. You may be surprised at how easy it is to get an application. Who wouldn’t want to hire a worker who takes initiative and shows interest in the employer’s company?
If a manager is impressed with you and asks you back for a second interview, write down the day and time. “I see many teens get excited about the job hunt at first, but then they either get scared, lose interest, or become forgetful,” says Karen Hinds, author of A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace and the founder of TeenSuccessInstitute.com. And don’t under any circumstances be late for an interview. “If a manager says, ‘Come back at 9 a.m. tomorrow,’ set two alarms and show up at 8:45 a.m. sharp.”
Bonus Tip: Don’t worry about hearing “no.” If a manager does say that, just keep looking for a similar job—go door-to-door until someone says “yes!”
Soak Up Info
Scan bulletin boards at your supermarket and school for job postings. And search online on sites such as Teens4Hire.org, CoolWorks.com, SnagAJob.com, Monster.com, Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com, and SimplyHired.com. You can also get ideas from reading a classic book that is updated every year, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. It can help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses.
Bonus Tip: The more effort you put into finding a job, the more options you’ll have.
“Remember that there are tons of jobs at any company,” says Dan Gelbtuch, founder of the Youth Jobs Coalition—a Massachusetts-based organization which helps create employment opportunities for teens. “Don’t avoid contacting a hospital about openings, for example, just because you have no interest in being a doctor or nurse someday. Maybe the hospital needs an intern in a non-medical department, such as marketing or food services.”
Bonus Tip: Challenge yourself to call three places that aren’t on your “short list” of places to work—just to broaden your search.
It’s never too early to start job hunting. Even though there may be a few more weeks left of school, start looking in the spring. You don’t want to lose out on a perfect job just because somebody else applied before you.
Bonus Tip: To entice a manager to hire you early, say that you can start working weekends now, while school is still in session, and that you can increase your hours when summer begins.