Land the Perfect Summer Job

Pros offer advice to teens to win over prospective employers.

Teenagers aren't imagining it. Sometimes it really is harder for 14- and 15-year-olds to find summer jobs than it is for older teens because employers wonder whether they'll have reliable transportation, or whether they'll show up neat, on time and prepared to work. Here's advice from experts on how to win over employers.

Amanda Royer, director of human resources at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, has hired thousands of teenagers and college students over the last 20 years.

  • Know how things work. Read an employer's Web site to find out what kinds of jobs are available and which rules apply to you.
  • Be personable and outgoing. "Be happy, be friendly, smile," says Royer.
  • Take school seriously. Royer often asks job candidates how many days of school they missed, or how they handled a troublesome classmate. "Participate in school activities. We notice."
  • Remember basic manners and good grooming. Skip the jeans with holes and the baggy pants, and dress like you're going to a church service.
  • Live up to your commitment if you take a job, but don't be afraid to make it clear up front if you're going to need time off for a family vacation or to attend band or field hockey practice a couple of hours a week. Employers often will try to accommodate you if you give them advance notice.

Claudia Goodnight is a career counselor at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

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  • Consider volunteering. It builds important skills and gives you a start on your reacute;sumeacute; and your network, which can lead to paying jobs later.
  • Tap your network -- from Grandma to your geology teacher to the guy who sold you your guitar. Also consult school organizations such as Business Professionals of America that focus on future careers.

Michael Zimmerman is job placement coordinator at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

  • Be open to any opportunities. Some 14- and 15-year-olds start out bagging groceries or delivering newspapers. Retailers will sometimes hire young teens, but you have to be persistent.
  • Ask about job prospects wherever you go, from the dry cleaner's to the movie theater to the music store.

Rayna Wright, 15, a student at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, applied for and won a paid summer internship at a medical clinic when she was 14.

  • Tell everyone you know about your career or work interest. They may see or hear of something to help you.
  • Maintain good relations with your school counselors and teachers. They're more likely to give you a written recommendation.
  • Wow your boss to make sure he or she wants you back again.

Malcolm Neal, a senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, won a summer internship with an auto-supply company.

  • Build up your reacute;sumeacute; to show off your skills, interests and activities. You want to emphasize your versatility and look good on paper.
  • Follow up and send thank-you notes after an interview, a job or an internship.

Other job-hunting tips:

  • Connect with the manager. When your drop off your reacute;sumeacute;, ask if you can give it to the boss personally so you can introduce yourself.
  • Ask questions. Not only will you find out if you have to work weekends or whether you get an employee discount, you'll also show that you're interested and engaged in the job hunt.
  • Have the proper documentation. Whether it's work permits, birth certificates, a lifesaving certification or letter of recommendation, have copies of documents with you when you apply. Note: High schools often provide work permits or working papers. Don't wait till the last week of school to get them.
  • Be creative. If you really want to work at a particular place, offer to work free for a couple of weeks to prove yourself.
  • Get advice online from sites such as (opens in new tab), which offers tips, tutorials and resources for teens and college students; and (opens in new tab), the Labor Department's information site for teens.
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Retirement Report