Help Wanted for Teens: How to Beat the Job Market Slump

The Help Wanted sign has practically disappeared for today’s teens. Too many young jobseekers are likely to spend the summer watching TV instead of scooping ice cream or serving pizza.

CNN reported a 40% drop in teen employment last June, making 2008 summer hiring for teens the lowest in 50 years. And 2009 is shaping up to be even worse for teen employment.

The causes? A slowing economy and growing unemployment. Some experts also blame higher minimum wage laws for squeezing out entry-level workers. Teens face competition from laid-off adults, seniors, and immigrant workers for low wage, part time jobs—especially in restaurant and retail work.

Changing times call for changing strategies. What does a part time job provide besides a paycheck? It’s a chance to experience responsibility, learn new skills, and gain self-esteem. Helping your teenagers find experiences that will help them learn and grow is the real priority.

Your teen can find skill-building work in a variety of ways. Don’t forget that college applications always ask for extracurricular activities that show initiative, creativity, and service. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Volunteer. Opportunities to volunteer are everywhere people (and animals!) can be found. As a volunteer, your teen can choose a field of strong personal interest, even investigate a possible future career. From libraries to animal shelters to sports and arts programs, volunteers are welcome. Volunteering provides work experience and often leads to a chance for paid employment.
  1. Help-to-Hire. Small neighborhood jobs and occasional work can generate some income and get your teen out into the world. Do the neighbor kids need supervision until Mom or Dad arrives home from work? Walking dogs, watering plants, and helping with yard and garage clean-up are tasks that give teens a taste of work responsibility and may provide job references and job referrals.
  1. Start a Business. Studies reveal that 40% of 8 to 21 year olds would like to start their own business. If your teen already has a business idea, why not begin trying it out? Computer-savvy teens might offer their services to beginners of all ages. Your teen might become a personal trainer for a sport they know well or a designer of crafts for sale.
  1. Pursue Passions. Encourage your teens to use the research and study skills they have learned in school to explore a passionate interest. The ability to seek information is a skill valuable for life as well as future employment.

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