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Start Looking Now for Summer Jobs

Tips for summer job hunting from an employment expert.

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If you're in high school and want to find summer work, start looking now.

Depending on who you ask, the summer job market is either improving or getting worse for teens ages 16-19. Last summer, only 960,000 jobs were added for teens in May, June, and July—the worst the market's been since 1949, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's just slightly more than half of the 1.74 million jobs created for teenagers in 2005, the high-water mark of the decade.

Experts from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a company that helps people find work, says this summer's teen job market is looking dire, but a survey by job hunting website snagajob.com says more hiring managers plan on adding extra help this summer.

John Challenger, CEO of the namesake firm, says with more high school and college graduates out of work, current high schoolers are seeing fewer job opportunities. Cuts to federal and state programs that provided summer work for teens haven't helped either. Finally, higher gas and energy prices may lead to job cuts at hotels, amusement parks, and landscaping companies where many teens find work.

But the snagajob.com survey says 10 percent of managers plan on hiring more people than they did last year, and 55 percent plan on hiring this summer. Both numbers are up from last year's survey. They're also planning on paying an average of $10.90 an hour, up from last summer's $10.20. And good news if you were able to find work last summer—according to the survey, 65 percent of the staff they'll be hiring will be returning workers.

[Read about the brighter job outlook for college graduates.]

Whether the market is up or down, the key to finding summer work is to start job hunting as soon as possible.

"Golf courses, swimming pools, summer camps, they are all looking now," Challenger says. "Start looking on weekends now for your summer job. Don't wait until you're out of school. That'll certainly give you a leg up."

He says snagging a summer job is crucial for teens. "It is crucial that kids learn basic work skills in these first jobs. Being on time, being reliable, being confident that the job market holds a place for them if they work hard," he says. "It's so important that people are confident that if they do the right things and take the right measures, there will be a job for them."

Here are some other job-hunting tips from Challenger:

• Apply in person when possible, rather than online. "The personal touch sets the groundwork in building a rapport that will separate you from electronic candidates," he says.

• Be prepared to do odd jobs like mowing lawns or cleaning houses as families cut back on professional house cleaners and landscapers.

• Apply to as many jobs as possible. "There are many summer job opportunities outside the confines of the local mall," he says.

• Network with your parents' friends and the parents of your friends. You never know who might be looking to hire some help.

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