As summer approaches, the teen job market is one of the worst on record and teens are not having an easy time finding employment.
“Last year, the teen employment rate for the summer months was one of the worst for teens on record: 32.8 percent of teens were employed last summer, compared to 45 percent in 2000. That’s two million less teens. Unfortunately, this summer’s teen employment rate is projected to be even worse than last year’s,” said Joe McLaughlin, a senior research associate at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, which studies the teen job market.
Cassie Villari, 18, a senior at Park High School said she needs a job to save up for college, earn gas money and spending money. “There are no openings, I have been searching for months, applying to over 60 places,” she said.
|Opinion: Tap into skills you already have to earn money
By Angela Zhang, of Woodbury High School
If you’ve been job hunting lately, you know that the days of easily getting a job at Walgreens are over for a while. In fact, teens are even fighting to get jobs like flipping burgers at McDonald’s – a job that no one used to want.
In an economy like this one, many teens are using skills they already have – like babysitting, mowing lawns and more – to make money.
There are many advantages to starting your own little business. And it’s a way to make money without depending on finding a retail job or something else.
I found a way to use my skills to earn some cash. A couple of years ago, United Way held a silent auction that my mom helped organize. I was 15 and had been playing piano for 10 years. I was thinking about teaching other kids to play the piano, and my mom suggested that I donate my time to the auction.
The highest bidder for my lessons got them, and the money went to the United Way. The other bidders were still interested in taking lessons, so I found two students through United Way’s auction.
It can be daunting at first to start a business, even a small one. Teaching my first lesson is an experience I’ll never forget. I was very nervous and felt incompetent.
As I gave more lessons and taught more students, I realized that it is okay to make mistakes. I learned that it is okay to give constructive criticism. I experienced what my own teachers must feel when they are faced with challenging situations, and gained a profound new respect for them.
My job is fun for me and also pays well. Even though I only teach two lessons — about an hour and 15 minutes — a week due to the busy school year, I still earn as much as my friends who work six hours a week at Kohl’s or Papa Murphy’s.
Starting a business means being able to keep all of the profits and having a flexible schedule. There are no worries about being fired or yelled at by a boss.
Other teens are also trying their hand at flying solo. One such teen is Nathan Tapp, a student at Patrick Henry High School, who sells candy to students at his school. He got started while fundraising for a club.
“The drama club needed some money in tenth grade,” Tapp said, “and I decided to sell candy to make some money. And I thought, ‘Hey, look at all this money that’s not mine.’ ”
Now Tapp sells candy very successfully, for his own profit. “I go to Sam’s Club about every week or so, and I stock up on candy and I sell to kids during the week. The best time to hit ’em is during lunch time. They want some sweet at the end,” he said.
Tapp’s got quite a reputation among his schoolmates: “They think I’m the candy man. I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
Tapp doesn’t get any competition from vending machines since they were removed by schools thanks to the recent health movement.
A “traditional” job is not something Tapp would consider. “It’s too rigid for me. It’s too much of me not being able to keep all the profits. Gotta work 9 to 5, all that stuff, and then people snap off on you when you do something wrong,” he said.
Tapp has big plans for his future. “(I want to) have a big company to make millions of dollars. Millions and millions of dollars. And then I’d go to sleep at night and roll around in it, fun stuff like that,” Tapp said.
He’s also interested in going into stock market trading.
His advice to other teens is: “Don’t sell candy around me. Don’t sell (stuff like) granola bars unless they really want that stuff. (Selling) some drinks aren’t a bad idea.”
Another teen making big bucks on his own is Mitch Coutu, a sophomore at Park High School. In the summer, he mows lawns around his neighborhood. “Every summer, we get a bunch of customers by going around the neighborhood. And we get up in the morning and we mow lawns,” Coutu said.
Coutu got started because he wasn’t allowed to apply for a job. “We (used to live) in Ontario, right by Toronto, in Canada. I started (mowing lawns) with my two older brothers because when we moved here, we couldn’t get jobs yet, because we didn’t have green cards yet. But we could mow lawns.”
“It’s hard work but it pays off. We usually charge about $25 dollars for one (lawn). People can also just pay a certain price for the whole summer,” he said.
Coutu has gotten a lot out of his lawn mowing business. “We’ve made a bunch. Last year we made a few thousand dollars. We save it for college and stuff, and we go to the mall,” he said.
In the future, Coutu wants to keep mowing lawns and go into the medical field.
Coutu’s advice to teens trying to make money is to keep going and not give up. “It’ll start out small, but then it’ll all turn out good. Making money is a blast,” he said.
There are no limits to how teens can make money for themselves, even in a recession. Don’t give up if Burger King isn’t hiring or Wal-Mart sends a rejection letter. Sometimes, starting your own business is far more profitable and enjoyable than a so-called real job.
Making money by doing what you’re good at is a much better deal, and can help you realize your potential when you go out into the workforce.
Villari said that she would like a job at a restaurant or retail store. But according to McLaughlin, those are the jobs that are toughest to land.
For other articles about finding summer jobs, see Summer jobs for teens: Difficult but maybe not impossible from the TC Daily Planet and Volunteering can pay off for teens, also from ThreeSixty
Why it’s tough to find work
“Usually, during summer months, restaurants, retail stores, and parks need to hire more for seasonal demands. But this year, with demand being cut down, stores and restaurants closing, and sales being down, they do not want to hire a lot of new workers. Teens are the most adversely affected in this situation,” McLaughlin said.
Teenagers are now also competing with adults for jobs as more are laid off. “I heard from my friends that some places are less likely to hire because of the economic situation, and how more qualified people are getting the jobs teenagers usually want or can get,” said Emmy Li, a sophomore at Mounds View High School.
“Jobs that would have been open under a normal cycle in June will have been filled earlier in the year by adults who are keeping them through the summer and into the fall if they can, which creates a problem for teens,” said Amy Lindgren, president and founder of Prototype Career Service in St. Paul.
McLaughlin said new college graduates are holding onto their teenage jobs because of the difficulty of finding employment in their majors . “Employers see them as people that have more experience, making them overall better job applicants,” he said.
With the range of opportunities for teens so narrow, many are willing to widen their preferences. “I would accept any job I could get right now,” said Holly Corporaal, 16, a sophomore at Park High School. Villari said the same.
“There are moments when I am willing to go find any job because I am desperate for money. It is nice to have my own money. I feel free,” said Ericka Vang, 17, a senior at Park High School.
What you should do
Fortunately, experts have some helpful tips for teen job seekers. “My first piece of advice would be to start early,” McLaughlin said. “A lot of kids wait until June, which is way too late, because employers hire in April or May. Also, use your network of family, relatives, and friends to help you find a job. If your friend is working at a restaurant, try to get him to help you land a job there.”
Lindgren said certain sites on the Internet are better than others for help with finding job openings.
“Minnesotaworks.com is a good place to search because businesses can post their job openings for free. However, with many other sites, such as CareerBuilder and Monster, employers must pay to advertise their jobs, so they are not likely to spend money advertising part-time jobs,” Lindgren said. “Also, I warn against using Craiglist as a teen because a lot of things tend to fall through.”
There are also other options out there for people who can’t find a good job. Lindgren said whenever it’s a difficult job market, teens should consider running their own small businesses, like walking dogs, tending gardens and babysitting. She also said volunteering is a good idea.
“They may even be able to create enough of a connection so the place they volunteer at could hire them as a worker next year. It’s a good idea to always have a plan B,” she said. “If you are looking for a job and don’t have one by mid-July, I think it is time to switch gears.”