Kids Will Need Job-Hunting Help to Get Over the Summertime Blues
Getting those high-school and college kids off the couch won't be any easier this summer than it was last year. Telling them to "Get a job" is not enough in this economy.
Even with signs that employers are more confident this summer than last year, the job market for young people is still recession-tight. Not only are youngsters competing against each other, but against adults who can't find other jobs while unemployment hovers around 10 percent.
"Hiring this summer will be very similar to what we saw or -- candidly -- did not see last summer. It's still a very challenging market," said Brett Good, district president for Southern California and Arizona for the employment firm Accountemps.
According to a forecast by employment agency Challenger Gray & Christmas, teen employment sank in 2008 and 2009 to levels not seen since the 1950s. The picture looks a bit better in 2010, but the report concluded it's "unlikely that summer employment gains among teens will reach pre-recession levels."
Another survey by CareerBuilder estimated the jobs market will be flat this summer. A poll of U.S. companies found 22 percent will hire temporary workers this summer, about the same as in 2009, and most will hire the same number of people and pay them the same wages as last year.
"It's going to be very tough for teens," said Michael Erwin, senior career adviser for the online jobs site. "They're competing with other teens, college students and people who have been in the workforce for years."
Additionally, many unemployed adults have gone back to school, so young students may be competing with adult students for everything from summer jobs to internships, Good told ParentDish.
The good news is that employers may continue to hire as the summer goes on and even into the fall, Erwin told ParentDish. And some summer hires could also turn into part-time jobs in the fall, he said.
Persistence pays off, say the recruiters. Kids should not give up and write off the summer if they can't find jobs by the end of June, because some companies may add more staff later in the summer if their business picks up.
"In other years, a lot of companies would be done hiring by June 1. That's not true this summer. More people will be adding in June, July, August," said Erwin.
The Challenger Gray report recommends teens steer away from malls and amusement parks, and look for jobs they would not usually think about, such as heavier manual labor, where they won't compete with as many older workers. Look for summer jobs in building or grounds maintenance with landscaping companies or the local streets and sanitation departments, the report suggested.
Parents should encourage teens to try unusual jobs or even volunteer activities, so they can learn about the workforce and make contacts, even if it isn't something they will want to do as a career, say the experts.
"The great thing being a teen is you can try anything," said Erwin. "You might not be there for the rest of your life, but you'll be able to check something off your list."
College students pursuing technical degrees such accounting or finance will have better luck than liberal arts majors and high schoolers, said Good. Companies in technical fields are still committed to internships and opportunities to identify young recruits. For the others "that's really where it's going to be who you know in the network of the network," he said.
Networking is going to be more crucial this year, and somewhere where parents can help. Ask friends and family -- even acquaintances in your circle -- about opportunities, said Erwin.
"When you're looking for a job for teens who don't have any experience, you'll have more luck with word of mouth and pounding the pavement in the neighborhood," he said.
"You need to use every tool that's available to you," said Erwin. That includes online job sites and social media, but parents should work with their children to make sure their profiles on social media sites are "business-appropriate," he said.
For an edge in job searching, kids should have a resume, even if they have no job experience. Help them build one listing school achievements, teams and after-school activities, recommends Erwin.
"Employers want to see you have responsibilities and can work with other people, that's important when you don't have work experience," he said.
And help your kids by proofing it carefully, so they can avoid common mistakes. Recruiter Robert Half International has a website with job-hunting tips and examples of what not to do. ("For more details, Google me." "Education: Attended collage courses.")
"There's an axiom: the only time you are perfect in life is when you're born and in your resume," said Good. So encourage your children to highlight extra curricular activities but not overinflate them, he said.
You can also help by role-playing job interviews with them, said Good. If you have access to a video recorder, do a mock interview, so they feel prepared, he said.
Parents also need to adjust their attitudes during these hard times, say the experts. Keep up a good front, even if you are out of work yourself, a common situation this year, said Erwin.
"Parents need to stay positive for their teens, so they have a good experience and a good image," he said.
In the end, students need to talk to their parents about their interests and strengths and the parents have to talk to other parents in their circle, so they can help their kids in this tough jobs market.
"They have to work together," said Erwin. "It has to be a collaborative effort this year."
Related: Summer Jobs for Teens, A Good Thing?
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.