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An Honest Day's Work: Summer Jobs for Youth

A summer job can be a great learning experience.

By GreatSchools Staff

Summer jobs teach young people valuable skills: responsibility, punctuality, following directions, getting along with others, establishing a good work ethic and managing money.

Karen Coburn, assistant vice chancellor for students at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of the acclaimed book, Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years, offers this advice for young people thinking about getting a summer job:

"A summer job, certainly for juniors and seniors in high school, is a good way to learn discipline and skills different from those you learn going to school. The basics of showing up every day, arriving on time, taking responsibility and learning from other people are important skills that can be learned at a summer job. It doesn't have to be in a professional environment. Students get a dose of reality when they interact with people in a work environment who haven't gone to college. It's a real eye-opener.

"It's good to have a combination of work experience and be exposed to different professions and work environments. A lot of students don't have any idea what type of work environment they ultimately want and summer jobs can help them to keep their eyes open to different professions and work environments.

"There's a lot of college hype out there that you have to have 'over-the-top' summer experiences. You don't need to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro blindfolded. There are other ways to prove yourself."

Where to Look for Summer Jobs

Your teenager can check:

  • the local newspaper
  • job Web sites such as Craigslist or Monster
  • the school guidance and/or career office
  • the local recreation department (teens are often employed to work as counselors in summer recreation programs)
  • signs in windows of local retail establishments

And she shouldn't forget:

  • word of mouth--tell everyone she knows (parents, teachers, coaches) that she is looking for work.

Create Your Own Employment

Another way to get work experience is to become a summer entrepreneur. Your teenager could create a service for the neighborhood. Babysitting, tutoring, pet sitting, lawn and garden care, computer assistance are just a few possibilities.

If your budding entrepreneur needs to hone her babysitting skills and learn CPR, she check with your local recreation center or the Red Cross. These organizations often offer courses for preteens and teens.

Here are some steps to get your teenager started if he wants to create his own service-oriented business:

  • Set a fair price for your service by considering your costs, time requirements and fair value for what you are providing.
  • Promote the business by calling neighbors and/or printing flyers to distribute.
  • When you succeed in getting customers, ask them to refer you to their friends.
  • To assure success, make sure you satisfy your customers by providing good service.

Comments from readers

"i need a job "
"Maybe they can have more jobs for 15 and 16 year olds.That way when they are juniors or seniors they can already knoe about;responsibility,and getting along with others!"
"Summer is starting in a week, I am playing baseball during the summer and I want a job. I am 15 and I have no work experience except for helping my dad with our bar. What type of job will have flexible hours,( I don't want to work for my dad)."
"Maybe you should have some ideas on summer jobs for 13 year olds. They don't have to be big jobs ,but maybe some options would be nice. "
"How can I get an application for summer youth employment for my grandson?"
"This website had good information. I would have liked to see summer camps and programs of that nature on the site."
"my son is 11 and wants a job so he can help pay his way or have money to spend i think is a good idea"
"Thank you for all your recomendations about everything"
"my son is 15 and he realy likes working and wanted to meet other kids. thank u for that artical"
"well i'm 13 and i'll be turning 14 on July 8. will I still be able you work then?"
"I have a student who is 13 years old and wants to work part-time. Her family is in financial crisis, and she wants to do her part. She is seeking other financial resources (i.e., donations), but she is especially interested in finding a paid position. She is in Orange County, California. Is there any place she could legally work?"
"Hi. I'm going to start off asking: 'what's a job that looks excellent on your college application, makes $7-$9 an hour, is only twice a week, (3-4 hours each day) works with kids and allows you to use your math skills, oral communication skills, English skills and the best part is: YOU CAN GET THIS JOB WHEN YOU'RE ONLY 13 YEARS OLD' well, its a job at a KUMON MATH & READING center as an educator's assistant. As a 12 year old, I will be working at my local kumon center as of August 2007. I have been doing Kumon myself for 5 years now, have progressed through the math levels greatly,I plan to save for college, and I cannot wait till I start my job. This was a great article. "
"Great article. I am having problems finding my soon volunteer work. He is 13 and will turn 14 in August. Most volunteer programs want 14 years olds. I think that there should be a program for 13 year olds who don't want to sit in a camp all summer but who would like to volunteer or gain some knowledge of the workforce"
"This article is excellent. Great ideas for teens to find jobs. Thanks."
"Thank you for this useful information. My 13 year old daughter is always annoying when shes bored. So now she can have fun and make new friends, while earning money for herself. Thanks again!!"
"As a parent of a teen - THANK YOU!!!!! "
"This was an extremely helpful article, my children are 13 and 15"
"i think that this is a good idea. what will make it better is if the children(teenagers) could fill out applications online it would make it seem more profesional and it would also be easier. they won't have to carry all of those papers around."
"I remember when I was a child of my sons age which is 11, I was able to find work outside of my home. It went a long way to helping me learn about responsibility, being dependable and earning a paycheck. I am now 41 and looking to do something similar for my son. Does anyone out there have any suggestions on where I can begin?"