After nine months of waking up early and sitting in classrooms all day, your teen may want to spend her summer sleeping until noon and hanging out at the mall. But you know that a summer job may be the best thing for her.
Junior Achievement USA’s “2013 Teens and Summer Jobs” survey revealed that the teen unemployment rate is 24 percent and 47 percent of teens are using their parents’ connections to find work. Use these tips to help your child grasp valuable job-hunting skills and join the vast majority of her peers in the summer work force.
- Be the oracle. In Greek mythology, the oracle is a mystical creature with an incredible amount of knowledge. She knows where the hero needs to go and what he has to do to succeed. But she can’t go on the journey with him—she can only provide direction. When you’re helping your child find a summer job, be the oracle. Don’t write the resume or find places to apply for her. Instead, provide the support and guidance she needs to succeed.
- Make an “accomplishment folder.” What do you put in a resume if you don’t have any work experience? This is a common problem for teens. Denise Winston, a financial expert and author who speaks to high school students about finding jobs, suggests the accomplishment folder. Anytime your child does something, have her write a brief description on an index card and stick it in the accomplishment folder. File away awards, CPR certification, and notes about volunteer projects or babysitting. You might be surprised how much you have to work with when it comes time to put together a resume.
- Search strategically. Where should teens look for jobs? Start by asking your child three questions: What do you love to do? What are you good at? How can you be most helpful? From there, find jobs that match her interests. Winston says her daughter was very artistic, so she applied to an interior design store. Think beyond common teen jobs at places like fast food restaurants, retail stores and movie theaters.
- Practice with mock interviews. Think of all the things you need to do while job hunting. “You can’t expect your child to do it if you don’t train them,” says Winston. A practice interview before your child goes to meet with a potential employer can give her valuable insight into what’s expected—she’ll be more prepared and less nervous.
- Keep it positive. Winston admits that helping teens find a job isn’t easy. “Sometimes as a parent, you get tired and you just feel like ‘whatever,’” she says. But despite the challenges, it’s important to be honest and constructive. For example, while you are practicing for an interview, you may ask your child, “Why do you want to work here?” She may roll her eyes and say, “Because I need a job.” Resist the temptation to roll your eyes right back at her. Instead, brainstorm some better responses with her.
- Go on a job scavenger hunt. Take your child on a drive to scope out potential workplaces, or she can go by herself if she can drive. Tell her to look at how people are dressed and how the employees interact with each other. This can help give her an idea of how she should present herself at the interview and feel more prepared to apply for the job. “They have to be prepared because you don’t want your child to go and feel defeated,” says Winston.
- Decide what is reasonable. “I had to figure out something reasonable,” Winston says about pushing her daughter to get a job. If she is already engaged in other time-consuming activities, consider whether she has time to also take on a part-time job. You don’t want to overload her with activities, so have an open discussion about how much she can handle and what’s most important for her summer.
Winston encourages parents to push their children to pick activities and jobs where they can feel good about themselves. “It’s not always about the paycheck; it’s about the experience,” she says. What’s more, going through a job hunt with you can give your child a boost of confidence when she goes to apply for jobs on her own in the future.