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Getting Your Teen a Summer Job

Teach your teens how to land -- and keep -- a summer job, and they'll learn values that will stay with them a lifetime.
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teens working at taste of chicago
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Jim Krantz

With layoffs on the rise and family budgets shrinking, kids are more eager than ever to earn an income. In fact, 89 percent of all teens say they plan to work this summer, a 15 percent jump from last year, according to Junior Achievement, an organization that helps teens get ready to enter the workforce. But experts say the search will be daunting. "As unemployed adults scramble for jobs that typically go to young people, this will be the toughest summer in 25 years for teens to find work," says Gad Levanon, PhD, senior economist at the Conference Board, which tracks employment trends.

But it's not all about the economy. Part of the problem is peer competition. Today's teens are part of Generation Y (people born between 1980 and 2001), which comprises a mind-boggling 80 million kids and young adults. And the largest number of Gen Yers were born in 1991, 1992, and 1993. "This is one of the largest groups of new job seekers ever," says Jack E. Kosakowski, chief operating officer of Junior Achievement.

Unfortunately, the issue is also the kids themselves. Most employers don't really want to hire your teen and would prefer to give almost any job to an older, more experienced worker. "The knock on today's teens, whether it's right or wrong, is that they're irresponsible and don't have the work ethic of previous generations," says Shawn Boyer, CEO of "That perception has a dramatic impact on hiring decisions."

The good news is that parents can make all the difference for their kids. "Ideal workplace citizenship -- showing up on time, doing your best, being respectful -- can be taught at home," says Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Jossey-Bass). You can help your teens find and hold on to a summer job by teaching them important skills, and giving them insights and confidence that may even help them appreciate the importance of the experience.