School's out, steamy mirages hover in sun-baked streets, and the smell of sunblock hangs in the air. But rather than hanging out by the pool, many teens will be pounding the pavement seeking part-time work. In this tough job market, enterprising teens who take a creative approach to summer employment may find it easier to rake in extra cash without competing with more seasoned job-seekers.
Unleash an entrepreneurial spirit.
Encourage your teen to begin by talking to family, friends and relatives who may know of entrepreneurs seeking to hire summer help.
"Entrepreneurism has grown dramatically and it's not solely attributable to people wanting to be their own boss. It's coming out of necessity," says Pam Dobies, a business management instructor and director of University of Missouri Kansas City's Bloch School Career Network. "People are forced into finding ways to make money and forced to go out on their own to pick up a few extra bucks."
Also, they are wise to consider jobs that can evolve into interim work during the school year, a college internship or a full-time job after graduating college.
Alvin Tan, an international student at UMKC and entrepreneur, says summer is a good time to take advantage of learning opportunities to explore interests. He recalls shadowing his parents, both financial planners, when they met with clients.
"Start when you are still young and have little commitment. Those are the best times to get involved and active," says Tan, who is in the process of starting several new businesses including Natural Husk Ware, which is all-natural, dishwasher-safe, biodegradable tableware made out of rice husk and tree sap.
Lanie Dunn, 18, a high school senior, channeled her entrepreneurial spirit into a non-profit she calls "Shoes for Paws: An Animal Cause," in which she crafted artistic designs on shoes and donated the proceeds to a local animal shelter. While she continues to work out the marketing of her business, she takes pleasure in the creative process.
"I really enjoyed decorating these shoes for people. I saw how many people liked them and it made me happy to see them enjoy them. It's a good feeling that people really like what you are doing, not only because of the cause, but because of what you created," Dunn says.
Savvy job ideas.
Dobies offers the following tips for teens:
• In addition to gofer work and filing, seek opportunities with small, local start-ups looking for tech-savvy young people to help with the ins and outs of online social media like Twitter; set up and manage their business Facebook page; help facilitate email communication; or even blog for them about teen topics like fashion or area hotspots.
• Whether you design jewelry, artwork, kids clothing or dog attire, people spend money on unique products. Flea markets offer tables for free or for a small fee to vendors. If you can't afford the fee, find a financial sponsor to cover the cost of the table. And, don't just sell your products that day - give customers the opportunity to place orders to build your business after the event.
• Offer services for aging baby boomers and busy families, like window washing, minor clean-up or errand-running, that they wouldn't hire a full-time service worker to do. Dog-walking, pet-sitting and house-sitting can also be lucrative options.
Develop business skills and resilience. If your teen sets out on the entrepreneurial path, help him market himself, network and manage his image. Dobies says teens should be mindful of the perception they're communicating to potential customers and avoid burning bridges.
Suggest your child create an album or portfolio highlighting her products or services. She can ask clients to write comments to include in the portfolio. A portfolio can help your teen "show what a fabulous, reliable, productive and positive person (she is)," Dobies says.
And if the first few attempts don't go anywhere, encourage your teen to keep trying.
"Persistence is a requirement in order to be successful in this world!" Dobie says. "As well as integrity, we don't have enough of that," she adds.
Christa Melnyk Hines, a freelance journalist, wife and a mother of two, is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of individuals who know how to turn lemons into lemonade.