5 Tips To The Summer Job Of Your Dreams

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Schools are getting out late in many areas of the country this year due to elongated winters and too many snow days on school calendars. The bad news might be that teens are getting a late start on summer jobs, but the good news is that the summer job market is trending strong for 2014.

In a report released by Challenger, Grey, Christmas, a preeminent Chicago-based outplacement firm, "employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 217,000 in May." Better yet, Challenger estimates that teen employment will stay strong throughout the summer. In the past, strong early starts have sometimes been followed by drops in teen employment in June and July, but Challenger believesthis year's early hiring upticks bode well for the entire season.

In the increasing tough economy, parents who previously may have let teens slide to enjoy a Ferris Bueller lazy, crazy summer are encouraging teens to work. In addition to creating a work ethic in their teens and having them add rather than detract from the family balance sheet, parents see first-hand that teen employment gives many young people a leg up in the real job world both when seeking internships in college , and when seeking first jobs out of college when high school employment posts may still be on resumes.

Here's a real-life example. This summer, I had the opportunity to interview several interns for a PAID summer internship position. Each applicant had to submit a resume and although I don't expect a young adult's resume to have much meat, there were key differences between those who got interview, those who got hired, and those who didn't make either cut. Here were a few of the key differentiators:

Experience. Yes, experience. The candidate who got the post had done related work in clubs and unpaid internships in high school. Once in college, the candidate not only took relevant courses, but started or was directly involved in industry-related clubs. The winning resume gave a clear impression of a young person excited to grow in the field. Competitors had work experience as well, but largely in retail and other more standard teen jobs unrelated to the paid internship.

Cover Letter. Of the two top candidates, one sent in a cover letter and the other didn't. The runner-up candidate with weaker experience may have benefitted from a cover letter explaining why (s)he should be considered or what s(he) hoped to learn from the job experience.

Creativity. The candidate who got the position came to the interview with a printed color copy of the previously submitted resume. (S)he noted that the banner was an odd color to help draw attention to the resume. Though I didn't like the color, I gave the candidate points for showing creativity, being concerned with standing out, and working to pump up a resume in a novel way to supplement the limited experience. More importantly, s(he) got points for showing up for the interview prepared. The runner up came to the interview empty-handed.

In the next round of resume writing, my current summer intern will have much more experience and be able to reduce the 2 inch colored banner because more space will be needed for real experience bullet points! And herein lies the last and likely most important consideration in summer employment for teens and young adults:

Money Doesn't Matter. The goal is prepare oneself, or position oneself, for the best possible life-long employment. This means also getting the best first job and second job in a chosen field. Although money does matter in helping a teen learn money management and responsibility, experience in a profession is worth ten times any base salary. If the choice is between a minimum wage job and no job – it's easy to pick a hamburger flipping or roller coaster ticket-taking job. But, if the choice is between a minimum wage job in a professional field versus a higher double-digit job in a retail setting or an ice-cream parlor, encourage them toward the lower paying job that provides solid work experience. Here's why: When someone like me goes to hire your kid for a first job, I'll have something solid to see on that first resume. Trust me, it will bring his or resume to the top of the pile.

One final tip: The Challenger Grey report suggests that "it's never too late to start or renew one's job search." This is great advice for young adults looking for summer work as well as the long-term unemployed looking for year-long work. As the report notes, people quit and previously filled jobs open up throughout the summer and throughout the year. Don't be afraid to reapproach an employer who previously turned you down. Your resiliency and timing may cause them to take a serious second look, and that may be all you need to nail your next great opportunity regardless of age.
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