business

Tips for Landing a Summer Job

At age 14, you can legally work in a place of business, but employers may be reluctant to hire the youngest teens. Here's how to look for and land a job this summer, no matter your age.

I'm 14. Can I actually get a job in a restaurant? Everybody tells me that I have to be 16.

In this case, "everybody" is wrong. Under federal law, teens as young as 14 are permitted to work in offices, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and lots of other places of business (see Youth2Work.gov, the Labor Department's site for teens).

It is true, however, that employers are often reluctant to hire teens that young. They wonder whether you'll have reliable transportation or whether you'll show up neat, on time and ready to work.

What can you do to win over an employer? Most of all, be enthusiastic. "Kids need to say, 'I'll do whatever it takes,' and show that they're motivated," says Amanda Royer, director of human resources at Cedar Point, the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park that every summer hires about 800 teens between the ages of 14 and 17.

It's also important not to sell yourself short or downplay talents and achievements that adults appreciate. Making the honor roll, acting in plays, playing a sport or volunteering through your place of worship all look impressive to an employer.

Other job-hunting tips:

  • Tap your network, from your soccer coach to the vet who takes care of the family pooch. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job.

  • Take school seriously. Royer often asks job candidates how many days of school they missed, or how they handled a troublesome classmate.

  • Maintain good relations with school counselors and teachers. They are more likely to give you a written recommendation.

  • Ask to see the boss personally when you apply for a job at a store or restaurant so that you can introduce yourself and make your case.

  • Have work permits and other documents with you when you apply. Note: You can usually get a work permit through your school.

  • Remember basic manners and good grooming. Skip the jeans with holes and the baggy pants. Dress as if you were going to a church service.

  • Be creative. If you really want to work at a particular place, offer to work free for a couple of weeks to prove yourself.

  • Follow up with a thank-you note after an interview.

Next week: Younger kids can earn money, too.

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