Commentary: 5 practical tips to help teens find a summer job

Algenon Cash

Commentary: 5 practical tips to help teens find a summer job
June 06
08:35 2019

By Algenon Cash

The weather is getting warmer and high school teens are completing exams as they move closer to entering a long-awaited summer. Many parents would like to help their soon-to-be homebound child find a way to generate income while they don’t have academic responsibilities.  

Besides giving teens a way to create their own income, a summer job also helps prepare teens for college while giving them some important life skills such as saving, budgeting and time management.

However, a White House study found that 46% of students who applied for a summer job last year were turned down.

In 1978 72% of teens had jobs. In 2016 that number was 43%. And when you ask about summer jobs specifically, the decline is even more precipitous. The Pew Report recently found that just 35% of

16-to-19-year-olds worked over the summer. 

Undoubtedly a tight labor market may be partly to blame. Not to mention convincing employers to hire inexperienced young workers is becoming more and more challenging. Managers are simply leery when it comes to giving a teen the necessary shot at entry-level jobs.

The issue is exacerbated by the reality that most teens don’t know what skills they offer, what industries attract their interest, and the kind of job they may be passionate about. What’s often missed is how much employers can benefit from the perspective of someone in the next generation, their overall energy, and a fresh approach to problem solving.

Here are some practical tips that can help any teen discover the summer job of their dreams:

1. Leverage your existing network of family and friends. The average teen won’t have thousands of LinkedIn connections, but they know far more people than often realized. Always begin with family and friends to explore who you may know who can provide access to an opportunity. Teens often expect people to help them by default, but you must be proactive when hunting for the right summer job. Don’t wait on your contacts to offer help – you’ll need to reach out.

2. Be prepared for rejection. Finding the right opportunity can be incredibly frustrating and at times may feel like you’re never going to achieve the goal. The first, second, or even third employer may not give you a chance – stay focused and don’t allow the rejection to discourage you. It’s tough to face rejection when you’re searching for your first job, but get used to it and don’t take it personally.

3. Be confident. It’s critically important to own your confidence, demonstrate it, and make it obvious. Strong, positive energy is contagious and can drive others to believe in your abilities. Teen candidates must focus on not pausing too long after a question; look the hiring manager in the eye and no slouching in a chair. Give the employer a solid reason to want you on their team.

4. Volunteer. The best way to gain a job is to help an employer realize how invaluable you may be to the organization, so that may start with a volunteer role that grows into paid employment. Ask if you can start as a volunteer or intern, and then work your way into a better position.

5. Don’t burn any bridges. You never know what direction life may lead, so always be careful not to burn any bridges – in case you need to go back in the direction from which you just came. If you get rejected, then stay calm and professional; don’t forget to express gratitude for the employer’s time. Definitely fight the urge to go on social media to speak derogatorily about a company. Keep in mind the company may reach back out when an opportunity emerges or you may want to re-apply for a different position at a later date.

Understand your internal strengths and the outward vision that you’re developing for your professional life, and then focus on finding a summer job that awakes your passion. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and most importantly, don’t give up.
Contact me with questions or to share your summer job-hunt stories. Good luck!

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at


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