Summer Jobs for Teens: Why and How to Pursue Them

Summer Jobs for Teens: Why and How to Pursue Them

By: Daniel Steingold | July 01, 2016

Out of school and bored? Summer jobs used to be a popular option for teens during the summer.

In 1978, 58 percent of teens— defined as those between 16 and 19 years of age— worked between the months of June and August.

Jump forward to 2010, and that rate had fallen to 30 percent. Even in 2014, well after the Great Recession, teens were only employed at a 32 percent clip.

This post will be all about teen summer jobs: why they’re good to have, why they’ve largely disappeared, whom they’ve gone to, and where and how to find the ones that still remain.

Why They’re Good to Have

Summer jobs are good to have because not every teen can afford to go on vacation or to camp during the hottest time of the year.

Jobs do the opposite; they pay you.

Summer jobs can help teach a teen how to manage their money, an invaluable skill for the rest of one’s life. They give a young adult a sense of responsibility, and allow for self-exploration into what one does and does not like to do.

Richard Weissbourd, a lecturer and researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, opins, “The lessons are huge. You see how hard people work, how rude and unthinking people can be to them.”

Many prestigious colleges, contrary to popular belief, look more fondly upon work experience than other activities and experiences, including volunteer work and selective summer camps.

Irena Smith, a Stanford admissions officer, still remembers the standout essay of a student who wrote about her summers working in fast food. This student was accepted to not one, but many, Ivy League schools.

Ultimately, summer jobs are believed to provide perspective, while building character.

Why They’ve Disappeared

One simple reason that teen employment rates has dipped is because the number of entry-level positions available have decreased.

It is also believed that teens are less likely to pursue a summer job because unpaid internships are pushed towards youth. Unpaid internships are supposed to provide teens with bonafide experience in lieu of pay.

Other general factors believed to contribute to general job loss amongst teens include school starting sooner for many students— e.g. in August instead of September— higher rates of summer school enrollment, and higher rates of student volunteer work.

It’s worth mentioning that unemployment for youths is at record-high levels worldwide. In 2013, The Economist reported that 300 million 15-to 24-year-olds across the globe are neither working nor studying.

In the U.S., summer jobs are more common for certain demographics. For example, 34 percent of white teenagers in the U.S. worked summer jobs in 2014— compare this to 25 percent of Hispanic teens, 23 percent of Asian teens, and only 19 percent of black teens.

In general, the younger one is, the less likely they’ll have a job— the unemployment rate for 16-to 17-year-olds is only 20 percent, compared to 43.6 percent for 18-to 19-year-olds.

Whom the Jobs Have Gone To

According to Steven Camarota, a research at the Center for Immigration Studies at Northeastern University, many low wage teen summer jobs have gone to immigrants.

The Federal Reserve validated such a statement in their 2015 report titled “Labor Force Participation: Recent Developments and Future Prospects.”

They summed up the phenomenon as follows:

“The increase in the population of less educated immigrants has had a considerably more negative effect on employment outcomes for native youth than for native adults. At least two factors are at work: there is greater overlap between the jobs that youth and less educated adult immigrants traditionally do, and youth labor supply appears more responsive to immigration-induced wage changes.”

Still Interested? How to Find a Summer Job

So you or your child decide it’s wise to pursue a summer job. Here’s how to go about that.

The first step you’ll want to take is deciding what you’re looking for. This means you’ll need to think about the location and hours you’re willing to work, the pay you’ll accept, and the general type of job you want to pursue.

From here, you will need to think about how you’ll sell yourself— after all, you’re competing with older people who may have more skills or experience. What can you offer that others can’t? How do your passions and current education or experience contribute to your ability on-the-job?

The next step is making a professional resume. You’ll also want to learn how to craft a cover letter, as many jobs will ask for one.

Once you done this, you will want to start looking around. Ask friends, family, classmates, and teachers if they know of any openings. Networking becomes even more important when you have little to no experience.

While asking others for help is important, it’s also important to scour newspaper ads and web listings that are local. These resources can be viable in finding a job.

From here, apply! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from someone older if you’re ever unsure or confused.

Once you get an interview, research what you could be asked. Practice your answers and responses endlessly. You will also want to think of questions you can ask the employer.

On the day of the interview, show up on time and well-dressed.

On a final note, you may be wondering what the most common positions for a teen job seeker are.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 32.2 percent of teens work in the “accommodation and food services” industry, which includes restaurants and hotels. 22.5 percent work in retail or wholesale industry, while 8.8 percent work in arts, recreation, or entertainment.

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