Finding summer jobs tough for area teens


Published: Monday, June 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 at 9:02 p.m.

Randy Bell, a junior at Gainesville High School, is looking for a summer job and has applied at several locations, including Publix, Winn Dixie and Albertsons. But, he said, he has yet to hear anything from these employers.

He chalks up the lack of responses to the fact that "there's a lot more kids trying to get jobs out there who need money."

As summer approaches, high schoolers are about to discover an unfortunate reality: No one is immune to the recession.

For teenagers, summer often is a time to earn a little cash while whiling away the hot, hazy days off from school. But, finding a job might not be so easy this summer.

With the national unemployment rate at 8.9 percent and fewer companies hiring workers, job seekers exceed jobs available.

"The number of managers who are going to be hiring are going to do so at a lot lower levels," said Heather Moose of Snagajob.com, a Web site which advertises hourly positions. "So, it is going to be pretty bleak for teens and young adults this summer."

A recent survey conducted by Snagajob.com found that 73 percent of hiring managers expected more applications than last year, and 23 percent of these managers planned to hire fewer workers.

Chicago-based outplacement consultant firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicted that for the first time since 1954 "fewer than 1 million 16- to-19 year-olds will find summer jobs."

That's quite a plunge from 10 years ago when more than 2 million teens held jobs in the summer.

But, part of the decline in summer employment is due to the fact that fewer teens are looking for jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 52 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were seeking or holding summer jobs in June 2000, but by June 2006 that number had fallen to 44.4 percent.

Now, with less than a week left before school gets out, all of these factors are frustrating teens in their search for summer employment.

Bell, who is still on the summer job hunt, bemoaned the fact that during the recession he must compete with older more experienced workers.

"It's hard because all of the other people are mostly older and have more job experience," he said. "So, these employers want to take on somebody who has more job experience than a high school kid looking for a job to make money."

Among students who have jobs, they credited networking as the reason for acquiring the position.

Elijah Brazil, a senior at Gainesville High School, was pleased that his networking efforts helped him locate a position prior to the school year's end. Because of his brother's help, he was able to secure a job at Crispers a little over a month ago.

Prior to that, he had applied at over six places including Lowe's and Wal-Mart, as well as gas stations and car washes. But, he credits his networking contact for the reason he now holds a job.

"It's really important," he said. "Without that I probably would have gotten a job in the middle of the summer. ... He got me a job quickly."

This basic approach to job seeking was backed up by Steve Carroll, the owner of the Chick-fil-a in the Oaks Mall, who said he does most of his hiring from referrals.

Carroll said about one-third of his employees are high school students.

He gave advice for those students seeking summer employment, saying that he looks for those who "can get along with the public."

"I learned long ago that it is hard to teach pleasantries; you have to hire pleasant people," he said. "The number one thing is to be able to get along with people and serve others."

Students who already have jobs can be a networking source for their friends and classmates. Brazil told of his classmates' pleas for help as they seek work of their own.

"They ask me for a job now since I have a job," he said. "They come to me and ask me to give them applications and get them in where I'm at. ... I hear probably daily somebody come up to me and say 'Oh man, I need a job?' or 'Can you help me get a job?' or 'Where do you work at? Can you help get me an application?' "

Lizbeth Butler, a sophomore at Buchholz High School, has yet to find a job but has heard the same desperation: "I have friends that want a job really bad; they need a job, but they're not able to even get an interview because so few businesses are hiring."

In her own search, Butler applied to Domino's, Publix and several other small retailers around town. Although she has been called in for a few interviews, she has yet to be offered a position.

She expressed disappointment over the fact that as the summer approached, she still had no job.

"It's really frustration, and we need the money for college because college is just getting more and more expensive" she said.

"It's extremely frustrating when we can't get the one job that we look forward to for the summer."

But, perhaps the key for teen workers in the midst of these frustrations, is to maintain what Carroll said he finds so appealing in them: "the optimism that young people bring to the business."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top