Restaurants, Parks, Beaches and retail used to employ teen in bulk.

I’ took my first job at the age of 14. It wasn’t by choice. I had gotten into enough trouble during the school year that my dad decided it was a good idea to keep me busy.’  I worked as a student aid for the New York City Board of Education. My dad ran summer school every year, for as long as I remember.’  Every morning we would wake up before the sun rose, and we would drive in. We would grab breakfast, and we would talk mostly about the previous day.

That first job is special to me. Not just for the obvious reasons above, but because I still vividly remember my failures, struggles and successes. I remember my mentors who showed me what it meant to lead. I also remember the bad bosses who accomplished everything through verbal abuse.’  Do you remember the first person who talked down to you at work?’ ‘  I learned some of the most important lessons of my life at that job, and at the other summer jobs I held as a teen.’  My summer jobs provided me with the opportunity to make mistakes at work while the stakes were still low.

Last summer, less than thirty percent of teens had the opportunity to work.’  Most of the teens who worked got their jobs due to the intervention of their parents. Like me, those teens have a much easier time getting work.’  Those worst affected, as usual, are the teens that come from low income families. There are several reasons why this is the case, but I believe the most significant as the lack of transportation.’ 

Jobs, in general, are bound to locations.’  As adults, we have the ability to relocate or hopefully commute. As jobs become scarce in one space, we can pick up and move to another space. In the book, “The new Geography of Jobs” ‘ by the economist Enrico Moretti, the author outlines where jobs are and where they will likely be in the future of America.’  It is useful for getting teens to think about the future in terms of location as well a career.

I am concerned though that their experiences will shape them like my experiences shaped me. But while I had the opportunity to grow, they will instead be shaped by the endless search for work. Our economic reality is bleak enough to intimidate those graduating from college. It won’t help us or the teens we serve if they lose faith something is out there for them before they even get to college.

My solution has been to take an active part in their job search. I have Google alerts set up to notify me of local job postings, and I have a Twitter hashtag associated with the local community in my Hootsuite. When I see something they are able to do, I send an email the teens with more information. It usually takes me about an hour a week. I am also encouraging them to actively pursue volunteer opportunities outside their church and school. Why outside? People can be easily conscripted to volunteer for the organizations close to them, but seeking out volunteer opportunities shows more initiative. Plus, networking works for them like it works for us. It is better to cast a wide net and hope for the best than putting unreal expectations on a single organization.

Some additional reading:

‘ For Many Teens, Summer Jobs May Be Thing Of The Past

Sad Summer ahead for teen employment

3 Thoughts on “The lost jobs of Summer

  1. I wouldn’t be in library school were it not for the jobs in social services that my mother hooked me up with when I was a teenager. Some were volunteer and some were paid, but I love being able to say that I have never in my life had to work in fast food, the mall, or any of those usual teen jobs.

    I love finding jobs for others, too. I think it’s awesome that you do so much to help your patrons out with extra cash, experience, and stuff to fill their days with. I’m curious though about how they react to the idea that they should volunteer regularly, like a job, and not just do a one-day project. I taught at an Upward Bound program last summer and tried to stress how volunteerships and internships could lead to paid employment, to connections, to recommendations, to good feelings, etc, but the same issues of transportation and time and money come into play, and I’m not sure that any of my students totally took my advice to heart.

  2. Mike Buono on July 20, 2012 at 9:26 am said:

    They typically respond in one of three ways. The largest portion of teens ignore me. Sometimes they just engage me in other conversation and other times they pretend like I don’t exist. Whatever, I get where they are coming from. After all, they look at school as “working without being paid.” Then there are groups of teens who typically hear what I am saying, and they look around a bit. Sometimes it leads to them volunteering, and sometimes not. But it gets them thinking about it. Finally… there are the teens who volunteer already, who don’t realize its relevant to a job search.

    I haven’t been too successful in finding them jobs, but I have been in making them realize work is important… and in making it clear that I care. That is a win in my opinion. Upward Bound is one of the experiences that made me realize how important it was to do say and do things which seem futile at the time. I was a TC for two years, and at times when I thought they weren’t listening to me Summer 1. They surprised me Summer 2 with a story of how they followed my advice.

  3. That’s so great to hear!

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