Kids compete with grandpa for a summer job

It's that time of year again. School's almost out for the summer and high school students around the country are looking for part-time work to pay for gas and car insurance, clothing and, in a few rare cases, college.

But with unemployment on the rise, Junior might find that sitting next to him in the job application line is someone old enough to be his father or grandmother: an out of work autoworker, carpenter, real estate agent, banker, or other occupation that's been hard hit by the flailing economy.The Associated Press reports that "All over the country, resorts and other summer businesses are getting swamped with applications from out-of-work Americans, many of them professionals. They are competing for jobs usually filled by young people and foreigners -- making beds, serving brunch, mowing lawns, running concession stands and operating carnival games and rides."

The problem for young people is that they tend to have a tough time competing with grizzled veterans with decades of experience who are willing to do almost anything to feed their families and make mortgage payments. Here are some tips for parents and young people hoping to find summer jobs in the toughest summer job market in a long time:
  • Start early! The days of waiting until the last week of school to line up summer work are over. Be proactive, and try to be the first person to show up at each prospective employer's door looking for summer work. When I was in high school I got an awesome summer job at a candy store just because I was the first person to show up and ask for it. Being the first person to inquire about a job gives you a definite leg up. If your child doesn't already have a summer job lined up, tell him to start beating down doors now.
  • Cast a wide net. It's a numbers game. The more applications you fill out, the better your chances at getting hired. Go to the mall and fill out an application for every store that will give you one. A job that very few people would want is easier to get: Think landscaping and undertaking (just kidding) instead of Abercrombie.
  • Clean up your appearance. When business were desperate for summer help, you could get away with piercings, ratty sneakers and long hair. Not so anymore. Employers have too many applications to choose from, and you simply can't afford to give them any reason not to hire you. Young people should head to job interviews well-groomed and freshly pressed. You don't need to look like Alex P. Keaton but unless you're applying for a job at Hot Topic, ditch the pseudo-gothic makeup and spiky hair.
  • Consider volunteer work. Most kids want to make money during the summer but if that's not possible, volunteer work is definitely something to consider. In addition to helping people and learning, it's a good resume/college application booster, and could lead to scholarships down the road.
  • Start your own business. With very little capital, young people can start their own businesses: lawnmowing, dogwalking, baybsittiing, buying at yard sales and selling on eBay (I did this during junior high school, before I was old enough to get a real job) etc. They're not the reliable source of income that a steady job is but they can lead to bigger things and be a great learning experience.
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