RISMEDIA, June 23, 2008-(MCT)-At a time when parents are being pummeled at the gasoline pump and beaten down by a gloomy economy, their teenagers are about to be unshackled from their school desks, set free into the jubilance of summer. Whether they’re graduating or they just want to earn some of their own gas tank ching-a-ling-a-ling, many will be looking for summer jobs. The task can be dreary-especially if you’re not thrilled by the prospect of flipping burgers and folding pocket V-neck T’s at a mall store-but in this economic climate, it can also be tough.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds rose to 15.5% in April, one percent higher than a year ago. The overall unemployment rate is 5.1%, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It really is hard, because a lot of jobs that kids would have during the summer … adults have taken those jobs, because they need two or three jobs now,” says Pat Fulkerson, youth contract manager for Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, Texas.

Teens can still work at perennial employers like Six Flags Over Texas, even though there are fewer of those jobs, human resources director Marian Buehler said. But the jobs are there, Buehler says. “Mainly, we’re just looking for people that have customer-service skills, that will make good eye contact, that are polite.”

So there’s no need to panic. Just get busy, and get creative, and when it comes to finding work off the beaten path, take a look at the advice from these experts.

Think Outside the Bun

Lila Boydston, career resources coordinator for the Fort Worth, Texas, school district, says it’s easy for students to gravitate toward the typical places. “They think: `Oh, I just need to go to a grocery store or fast food.’ And there’s nothing wrong with those, but they should start to brainstorm: Where are the places you like to go for fun? Make a list, and why not apply?”

Cheri Butler, associate director of career services at the University of Texas at Arlington, tells students that if they want to attend college, they should try to look further down the road. Ask yourself what you are interested in right now. “I encourage them to think outside the box about things that they like to do that might lead them to helping decide on a career path.”

Start by talking to friends, family and acquaintances for ideas and connections. If a student really likes animals, Butler says, why not check out the Fort Worth Zoo or a vet’s office? If you’re interested in something like real estate, realty offices sometimes hire students for part-time, weekend receptionist jobs.

Butler added that working a summer job in a field you’d like to pursue may also help you realize that this really isn’t the career path for you.

Robert Rodriguez, 18, found his part-time job about a year ago after being referred by a friend: the Trimble Tech senior is a dietary aide at Cook Children’s Hospital. He prepares trays for the patients, and sometimes delivers meals to the kids’ rooms. He makes $8.50 an hour with benefits that include paid time off and sick pay.

Rodriguez’s advice to teen job seekers? “It’s always good to look at the hospital websites; they’re always looking for hired help.”

Be Your Own Boss

David Minor was a teenage entrepreneur. He’s now the director of Texas Christian University’s Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at the M.J. Neeley School of Business.

One of his first jobs as a teen was doing janitorial work, making minimum wage, which was then $1.65 an hour. The next summer, one of his friends told him how he’d started making money mowing lawns. Minor had a lawn mower, a buddy had a driver’s license, so a new venture was born. His hourly wage shot up to $8-$10 an hour. “The very first week I realized being an entrepreneur was the ticket for me,” Minor says. By the next year, he had his own license and the ability to go solo.

“I was able to make more money than I could on someone else’s schedule,” said Minor, who started Minor’s Landscape Service, which eventually grew into three offices. He finally sold the business when he was 39.

“Oftentimes creating your own opportunities is the way to go,” Minor says. “It gives you the freedom and flexibility to do what you want to do, when you want to, or when you can do it. It allows you to work around other extracurricular activities.”

If you want some ideas from people who really thought outside the box (and in some cases, might’ve had some start-up help from Mom and Dad), take a look at some of the winners of TCU’s Texas Youth Entrepreneur of the Year program at www.tcuyeya.org.

The program recognizes young people who have started their own businesses, Minor says. “We bring about 20 (students) in, and we award six of them (college) scholarship money.”

This year’s winner bought and sold used, high-end foreign cars. “That’s obviously a very unique niche,” Minor says, adding that there was a mix of mundane and highly unusual businesses: lawn mowing, window washing, curb painting, website building, calf raising.

“One of our winners did Internet promotions for movies,” Minor says.

Just like any kind of entrepreneurial venture, Minor says, it’s first about zeroing in on a niche to fill-a particular service that people can use. Then comes the idea, and then you have to access the capital you need. “Obviously some of them are going to get a little help from their parents to start with,” he says.

And once you’re off with your idea, get out the word by going door to door, posting flyers and informing just about everyone you know.

If you’re leaning toward entrepreneurship, you might pick up a copy of “Prepare To Be a Teen Millionaire”, by Kimberly Spinks Burleson and Robyn Collins. The book offers tips from and interviews with people who created their own businesses as teens.

Where to Look?

We asked our employment experts for ideas on how to get the cash flowing this summer-whether it’s an entrepreneurial plan, or a 9-to-5 job doing something different or unusual. Some jobs might be internships, which often don’t pay-but if it’s something you’re aching to pursue, think of it as an investment in your future.

Animals / Outdoors

Local Zoo
Veterinary offices
Lifeguarding at pools or summer camps
Theme parks
Country clubs/golf courses


Museums (tour guides, reception desk, gift shop)
Movie theaters
Radio stations

Office Work

Law firms (research)
Realty offices
Beauty salons
Web design
Computer troubleshooting/repair


Pet and house sitting
Dog walking
Lawn care/landscaping
Martial arts instruction
Floral design
Artwork; design and produce T-shirts
Auto mechanics
Car detailing, customization



More Tips for Teens

Do …

- Look as if you took the time to pick out your clothes, not dressed as an afterthought.
- Be upbeat and high-energy; show your personality.
- Be well-groomed–hair and hygiene.
- Wear clothes that fit properly. Wear casual pants, not jeans, and solid shirts, not prints. Stay away from bright colors. Avoid sandals and flip-flops, and women should avoid open-toe shoes. “It all sounds very old-fashioned,” Boydston says, “but it’s still what employers are looking for.”

Don’t …

- Wear shorts, cologne or perfume. “A lot of people are allergic,” Boydston says.
- Overdo the makeup. It’s better to wear clear or no polish on neatly groomed nails.
- Overdo the jewelry. It can be a distraction. Guidelines for guys: a ring and a watch; for women, keep it simple: chain, one ring on each hand, one item per wrist.

In addition to personal appearance, Boydston says applicants should think about skills they have that could benefit the employer. Let them know you’re someone who wants to work, will come in on time, will take initiative and will learn the job. And it always helps if you have reliable transportation. “Just know yourself,” Boydston says. “Do you have good communication skills? Are your reliable? Enthusiastic? Do you enjoy helping others? Do you have good money skills-and how that would be a benefit to that employer?”

© 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.