Career Spotlight: Contortions to land a summer job
Teenagers who want summer jobs are caught in a classic situation: They can't find work becauseget ready to cross your eyesthey don't have any work experience.
But Martha Mariscal, who hires dozens of inexperienced young people each summer, says there are a couple of keys to catching that first break. The owner of two Cold Stone Creamery stores in the Phoenix area gets about 10 applications a day from high schoolers looking to earn a few bucks during summer break. She calls most of the applicants in for the standard Cold Stone audition, in which the students have to perform a song, a magic trick, a dance move, or anything else that displays their talents. Then she puts the applicants in groups of at least four and tells them to cooperate to come up with another performance. The job winners are often kids with no experience but who have buffed up their resumes with volunteer activities and have developed some special talent or skill. "You want to show that you are not just staying home and waiting for a job," Mariscal advises.
One of Mariscal's most memorable hires was a teenager who showed off her double-jointedness byI am not making this upclasping her hands together and looping them over her head and then under her feet, basically jumping rope with her arms. "It was gross. But you just have to give somebody like that a job," Mariscal says, still laughing at the memory.
Those kinds of contortions are, unfortunately, increasingly necessary because the summer hiring outlook is worsening for this season's crop of students.
Last year marked an all-time low for students' summer employment, with only 36.3 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds bringing home a paycheck. That's more than 3 percentage points worse than during recent recessions.
A Northeastern University study predicts that this summer will be even worse, for a host of depressing reasons. Federal budget cuts have eliminated thousands of summer jobs that gave kids that all-important first work experience and resume entry. Private-sector job creation is struggling to keep pace with the increase in population. And increasingly, youngsters have to compete for seasonal jobs with retirees seeking to supplement their savings, immigrants, and foreigners recruited from abroad.
So, kids, if you're having trouble finding work, start volunteering, and in your free time, you might want to practice back flips.
Senior writer Kim Clark covers the workplace for U.S. News.