10 Tips to Find Summer Jobs in a Tough Economy

With high unemployment for teens, finding summer work could be challenging.


Networking landed Felix Schapiro, a junior at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, Va., a part-time summer job. He applied for positions at a local grocery store and at a local park, both of which didn't call him back. Then, he contacted a friend's dad who works in an architecture firm in Richmond. As a result, Schapiro will be working part-time at the firm and part-time in an upaid internship with the American Civil Liberties Union.

6. Use Online Job Sites

But networking may not be enough. "The biggest mistake people make when applying for jobs is that they only look in one place," Pollak says. "You've got to cast a wide net." Teens should scour Internet sites such as Craigslist, community bulletin boards, Monster.com, and LinkedIn.com. She advises teens to create LinkedIn accounts, join the student groups on the site, and search for entry-level job openings. She also recommends using social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to let your network of friends and family know you are looking for a job.

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7. Be Creative and Flexible

Teens don't have to rely on someone else to hire them. They can create their own jobs by becoming entrepreneurs, Pollak notes. Teens can create own their baby-sitting, lawn-mowing, or house-cleaning businesses, and hand out flyers to their friends and neighbors.

Teens insistent upon working at an organization that doesn't have any openings can offer to volunteer there several days a week. That way they could get an early warning about upcoming job openings, Christen says.

[Read more: How to Turn Volunteering Into a Job]

8. Look for Virtual Work

With more jobs moving online in this digital age, students should look for virtual work. Pollak says that students should look particularly on Craigslist, where they can find jobs working from home on a computer doing telemarketing or social media tasks. "A job doesn't necessarily mean going to a place of work," Pollak says. "You have to show your flexibility in the way you look for jobs so people can think creatively about how they could employ you."

9. Prepare to Ace the Job Interview

Mock job interviews are a great way for teens to prepare, counselors say. Both Pollak and Christen recommend practicing with family, friends, and other adults, such as teachers, to get feedback. Also, beause nothing is more important than making a good first impression, stop by the business before an interview to see what people are wearing. Christen recommends applicants show up at an interview dressed at least as well as—and, preferably, better­­—than the employees. "Overdressed is better than underdressed."

Be sure to be arrive early, bring your résumé, turn off your cellphone, have a strong handshake, and make direct eye contact when meeting the employer. Also, be confident and enthusiastic about the position. "Interviewers make up their mind about hiring in the first 30 seconds, and then spend the rest of the time justifying their decision," Christen says. After the interview, be sure to send a thank-you note in the mail or by E-mail, Pollak says.

[10 Ways to Ask for the Job at the Interview]

10. Be Honest About Your Time Commitments

Finally, once you have been offered a position, be honest about your time commitments in the summer and during the school year if the job lasts beyond the summer. "Phrase it in a positive way by saying here's the amount I could give this summer and I could continue this fall in a mutually beneficial way." 

Pollak says students shouldn't worry too much about finding the "perfect" job that looks good on a college application this summer. "Nobody's going to judge you by how you got by this summer; it's a hard time," Pollak says. "It's still perfectly respectable and fine to get a job mowing lawns or baby-sitting or waiting tables. Absolutely go for your dreams and goals, but this may be the year where showing some hard work, diligence, and perseverance is OK in the end."