Are you dreading the thought of your teenager sitting at home this summer mindlessly gaming or pouring over social media? It’s not an option at our house, so we’re encouraging our older kids to look for a summer job –  and now is the time!

When I was a teenager, I ended up working for the family business (as did my sisters), so I never really had to search for a job while in high school. My kids won’t have it that easy. It’s up to them to find their own summer jobs, but as parents, we can certainly guide them in the right direction.

I spoke recently with Jennifer MacSween, who works with the City of Calgary’s Youth Employment Centre, and she had lots of great tips that I’m excited to share with you.

How to land that first summer job

  • Networking – this is the #1 thing your teen should be doing to help them find a job. For a young person, that means getting involved with groups and organizations where they can rub shoulders with adults who can give them a good recommendation or referral. This could be a church group, sports team/club, volunteering at the YMCA, etc.
  • Prepare a great resume highlighting community service, volunteer work, academic achievements and, yes, even babysitting if that’s all they have. My daughter even highlighted the fact that she had moved around a lot and was good at meeting new people.
  • Search online job boards (Indeed and Monster) and company websites for career opportunities. Also, follow the companies’ social media channels, as more businesses are using Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to connect with their younger audience. My daughter found her job when the company posted “We’re hiring!” on its Instagram story.
  • Help your teen practice interview skills – some teens can find talking to adults very intimidating. Take the time to do mock interviews with your teen so he/she can get comfortable in the interview scenario.
  • Clean up social media – it’s very likely that potential employers will view your teen’s social media channels for research purposes. Encourage your teen to weed out any unflattering photos, questionable comments or anything that might portray them in a negative light.
  • Hiring Fairs – here in Calgary, we’re lucky because the City holds a youth employment fair every spring. Check with your municipality to see if there is a summer job fair in your town or city.
  • Dress/look professional – I know it’s summer, but tell your teen to skip the ripped jeans, short shorts and muscle shirts when attending an interview.
  • Leave parents at home – this probably goes without saying, but in this age of helicopter parenting, it’s worth repeating. Parents should not attend interviews or job fairs with their teen. If your kid is old enough to have a job, they’re old enough to do this on their own. Don’t sabotage it.

Summer jobs can turn into careers

Here are some of the typical summer jobs your teen can expect to find:

  • food service industry
  • retail
  • camp counselor
  • tutoring
  • fitness
  • financial services
  • babysitting/Nanny
  • lifeguarding

Many of these jobs start at minimum wage ($12.20/hour in Alberta), but if extra skills are required, such as lifeguarding, the starting salary may be significantly more.

And, let your teen know it’s never too early to be thinking about the ‘big picture.’ If possible, they should consider targeting jobs in their planned field of study. If there is a company that they can see themselves working for, go ahead and dream big.

“Companies want to focus on employee retention… they like to start them off quite young so they can build them into their company culture and then promote them within,” says MacSween. Jennifer started working as a City swimming instructor at 16, and she’s been working with the City ever since!

In my opinion, getting a summer job is a rite of passage and an important milestone for a teen.  Whether it be pet sitting or waiting tables, having a job gives kids the opportunity to take direction and be responsible to someone other than a parent. These are all great steps towards independence or “adulting” as they call it these days.

So, are your kids working this summer? I’d love to hear from you!




Author Michelle

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