Traditional summer spots, such as working at a summer camp, may already be filled. But other opportunities remain for those with creativity and the will to pound the pavement, experts said.
“They have got to be really tenacious,” said Renee Ward, founder of career site Teens4Hire.org. “There is a lot of talent in the market that business owners can choose from. The younger and the inexperienced are definitely going to be floundering this summer.”
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds hit 21.5% in April, compared with the overall rate of 8.9%, according to the Labor Department.
Teens face such a tough uphill battle during a recession because they have less experience than other workers and are easier for employers to let go, said Harry Holzer, a professor at Georgetown University and former chief economist at the Labor Department. Plus, teens face stiff competition for jobs from older job hunters and immigrants.
“Of all the groups in the labor market, the group that faces the most competition is younger workers,” Holzer said. “The recession has made things much worse.”
Still, there is work to be done this summer, and that means options for younger workers. Here are four key routes for teens to earn income over coming months:
1. Try New Avenues. While there is turnover at traditional employers-restaurants or retailers, for example-teens should think creatively to find summer employment, said Austin Lavin, chief executive of MyFirstPaycheck.com, a job board for teenagers.
“Teenagers understand that the job market is tough this year, and they are being more creative and applying to places they might not have applied to before,” Lavin said. “It’s good to push your boundaries.”
Walking up and down the mall and trying every store just isn’t going to cut it anymore, he said. While filing may not be the height of fun, Lavin suggested that teens also look for work in offices.
Teens who are used to working at higher-end establishments may want to lower their sights a bit this summer.
“Places that are more affordable will be hit less hard during a downturn,” Holzer said. “There’s a lot of turnover at those places even in bad times. So jobs can be identified if people look hard enough.”
2. Internships. Even though jobs are scarce, there may still be an abundance of internships, some of which are paid.
“As the economy started worsening we saw companies were worried over hiring and uncertain about hiring needs,” said Mike Schaub, executive director of the Career Education Center at Georgetown University. “But for summer internships we have not seen a decline in the number. Employers realize that one of the best ways to vet a candidate is an internship.”
Competition for internships is tough, and an inexperienced college freshman may have difficulty getting a professional internship, said Schaub. To keep up with competition, students should use various strategies to find one of these spots.
“Students can use online listings, but that should not be the only way of finding good opportunities. Companies may expect students to go directly to them, and may not post on job boards,” said Schaub.
Unpaid internships can be a good opportunity for teens who don’t need the summer cash, said Holzer. “If folks are in the position to take an unpaid internship where they are learning valuable stuff, this is a good time.”
3. Network. While some students have already found jobs, others will be looking through the summer and may even go into fall, Schaub said. Reaching out to parents and parents’ friends may ease the job hunt, and contacting alumni can be particularly helpful.
“Alumni want to give back to the university. Many students do find work by contacting our alumni. Also, as connections are nurtured, that can turn into opportunities,” he said.
MyFirstPaycheck.com’s Lavin said teens should not be shy about hitting up their folks and their folks’ friends.
“It’s about networking, telling everyone you know you are looking for work,” Lavin said. “A lot of companies are cutting back on costs, but if you have a family friend who runs an office, there might be a chance to do secretarial duties.”
4. Entrepreneurship. Now is a good time for teens to think about what they’re good at, and consider a summer business. “They can be creative and come up with ways to earn money-be a DJ, do garage sales for neighbors, tutor senior citizens on computers,” said Teens4Hire.org’s Ward.
Lavin noted that e-businesses, such as selling items on eBay, may not be the best option for teens without the right background and support: “You have to be very careful when you are starting an online entrepreneurship, but if a teenager has the skill set and support of their parents, online is a good option.”
© 2009, MarketWatch.com Inc.
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