May 1, 2009
Summertime blues: Teens face chilly hiring climate in seasonal job hunt
RALEIGH, N.C. — For many teens, a summer job is a rite of passage and a chance to earn some cash.
But this year, it also will be a hot commodity.
The tight economy and upswing in unemployment mean there are more job seekers and fewer jobs. And those with little to no job experience are going to have to work even harder to secure a position.
Job search Web site SnagAJob.comfound in a recent survey that 73 percent of managers are expecting more applications than last summer but 23 percent expect to hire fewer people than last year.
That's not to say finding a summer job is impossible.
But especially for teens, it's going to require lots of time, dedication and perseverance — and that's before the first day of work.
"The hiring managers who do have open positions are planning on hiring fewer workers, but the silver lining is the top two items they are [looking for] are a positive attitude and flexible schedule," said SnagAJob spokeswoman Cathy McCarthy. "I think a teen or a student can go head to head with the older worker."
Avoiding summertime blues
Some tips from the experts on how to move to the top of the résumé stack this summer:
Have a positive attitude. Express an eagerness to work for the specific company to which you are applying. Don't just act like you need a job and this one will do.
Be flexible. The more flexible you can be about when you can work, the better. Odd shifts and weekend shifts are tough for employers to fill.
Work your network. Ask your parents, neighbors and any other adults you know if they know of someone with an available job. Sometimes a kind word from a friend is enough to get your foot in the door.
Don't nitpick. In today's economy, the more flexible you can be about where you are willing to work and what you are willing to do, the better your chances.
Focus your search. Pay attention to financial headlines and focus on companies that are doing well. Also look at companies that typically hire younger workers, including restaurants, grocery stores and retail.
Be professional. If your e-mail address is something you don't want the world to see, you might think about opening a new e-mail account on Gmail or Yahoo. Likewise, change your voicemail message to be professional.
Do mock interviews. Sit with your parents or your friends and practice interviewing, so you will get used to fielding questions about yourself.
Follow up. Persistence can show an employer you are a dedicated worker and really want the job.
Maggie Gargan, 17, has been looking for a summer job since February.
Gargan, a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., is headed to East Carolina University in the fall to study elementary education and wants to save up some money.
"My dad told me to get a job when I was a junior and I just kind of blew him off," she said. "But now I'm like, 'Oh, I need to have a job.' "
Gargan has applied for jobs everywhere from retail stores to the parks and recreation department.
But so far, she's had no luck and is counting down the days to her June 13 graduation.
"At this point, I'm kind of like, whatever I can get," she said.
Employers say they have seen an increase in the number of people applying for jobs — not just teenagers.
"It's like buying a house in this economy, you've got the pick of the litter," said Mario Russo, co-owner of Cary Quick Serve Restaurants, which operates three Dunkin Donuts-Baskin-Robbins stores.
The rise in applications from workers can force store owners and managers to make some tough calls.
Matt Barry, the manager of the Dickey's Barbecue Pit restaurant in Cary, N.C., gets applications from teens and adults.
"[The teenager] might need that job for some money, but they don't need that job like a 27- or 28-year-old who has a kid or something," he said. "... It's a hard call to make."
Showing you are serious about securing and keeping a job can help your chances, said Dan Mall, local franchisee of eight Jimmy John's sandwich stores.
"If you show me you want to work here, that's all I care about," he said. "I don't prefer 16 over 60. ... Everybody that starts has to memorize the menu in advance. Sometimes people do it, sometimes they don't. If they've done their due diligence on their end, I'll hire them."
Teenagers can especially help their own cause if they are willing to show a long-term commitment to the company, Mall added.
Teens who wait too long or are just unable to find a job this summer should not take that as a license to goof off, said McCarthy of SnagAJob.com. The next best thing is probably to volunteer.
"At least get something on your résumé so that next summer you do have something to point to and you do have a reference," she said.
"Otherwise you're just another year behind."
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