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Nab a Summer Job – and Make the Most of it.

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Nab a Summer Job – and Make the Most of it.

Good summer jobs are hard to find, yet they’ve become increasingly important for high school students – for the money, experience, and your resume.

With youth unemployment numbers at record highs, think about how you can improve your chances of getting a job and making the most of it. Here are some tips:

1. Start early, obviously.

Like now. This gives you more time to explore all the options – and shows potential employers that you are forward-thinking and serious. The search process itself is a good project. Make a few contacts each week and set up a spot (physical or electronic) to keep the information for follow up. Set short-term and long-term goals.

2. Creatively consider all options.

Making money and gaining experience are the two primary goals. Maybe you can find both in the perfect position, but perhaps you’ll have to settle for one – then creatively achieve the other, says Marshall Brain, the brains behind and founder of the “How Stuff Works” franchise. He’s also the author of the book “The Teenager’s Guide to the Real World,” which includes a section on summer jobs.

Say, for instance, you are committed to working with animals as a career but can’t find a paid position. You might have to volunteer at the animal shelter three days a week and baby-sit to make some money. A future lawyer might help a law-firm receptionist a few hours a day to make contacts while working on the side building websites. A job scooping ice cream can help you understand commerce – especially if you volunteer to help with administrative tasks. Or, interested in graphic design? Volunteer to design an advertisement or flyer for the business where you work.

3. Make an impression.

Sadiq Ali, founder of Millionaire Manners Academy, a leadership and youth development organization, says teenagers should make sure they know what is expected, ask for feedback, and ask if they can do more. “If a young person can demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile, even though they didn’t have to, this leaves a powerful positive impression.”

4. Make it up: Create a job.

This requires creativity too, Brain says, though there are some popular services that are always in demand: dog-walking, baby-sitting, landscaping, for example. One student started a grocery-buying business and another repaired mailboxes. “I know one teenager (age 16) who started his own office cleaning service, grew it, then sold the business when she started college,” he says. “Another at age 15 started a yard-care business. Had the same result. Others use tech skills. What could be a better summer experience?”

5. Take charge.

Volunteer for a leadership role, show a willingness to do more than asked or suggest new approaches – in a job as seemingly stifling as sitting in a lifeguard chair.

And remember, too, that the contacts you make – even during the process of searching for a job – can be invaluable. The best opportunities often arise from unexpected places.

[Looking for more tips from the TeenLife Experts? Here's how to balance school AND a part-time job.]

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Written by James Paterson

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Jim Paterson is a writer and editor who specializes in issues related to education and counseling. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today Weekend, Parent Magazine, Baltimore Magazine, Counseling Today and a variety of other publications. He has also been a school counselor for the past eight years and last year was named “Counselor of the Year” in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, DC.

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