Teens tend to think summer jobs are all about the money—but parents know different.
The very act of getting off of the couch, identifying job opportunities, and then actively going after those opportunities builds life skills into your teens that they’ll need long after their summer jobs are over.
If you find your teens resisting the idea of applying for summer jobs, here are 7 strategies that will help. (Even if weeks of summer have already passed.)
1. Let your teen feel the sting of poverty.
If you hand your daughter plenty of money to satisfy her every wish and need—she’ll never feel motivated to work hard and earn money for herself.
Give her a tiny allowance and ask her to stretch it to cover all her own teen life expenses, though—and a grocery store job might start to look pretty good to her!
See my clear instructions for parents on exactly how to implement this “allowance strategy” here.
2. Remember—even June and July are good months to look for summer jobs.
The month of May was insanely busy for your family, just like it is for all families. If your teens didn’t have time to look for summer jobs then, that’s OK. June and July are not too late. Employers are still adjusting staffing in June and July—and some of their summer hires aren’t working out. Your teen may be applying just in the nick of time.
3. Encourage teens to go in person to ask about summer jobs.
Teens who fill out job applications online and then wait passively at home for phone calls are a dime a dozen.
Show up in person and talk to managers, though? Let these managers see a bright, eager-to-work face? That’s something not everybody does, so it can make a powerful impression.
Your teen will likely still be asked to fill out an online application, but the initial in-person, face-to-face contact will give him or her an edge over all other applicants.
4. Have your teen list 6 local businesses where she might like to work. Then…
Challenge her to visit these 6 businesses all in one day. Three in the morning, three in the afternoon. No appointment needed for this, just walk in. Pay her to do this if necessary.
If the first day doesn’t land results, plan an identical second day.
For most effective results, your daughter might want to call ahead to each of these businesses and ask the person who answers the phone, “Can you tell me—what is your manager’s name? Thank you. Is she in today? OK thanks. I appreciate it! Goodbye.”
This can help ensure that your daughter does actually get to speak to a manager when she makes her in-person visit.
5. Give your teen a simple script to use on employer visits.
The script you suggest might look like this:
Walk in, and approach the first employee you see. Say this:
“Hi, I’m Jack Anderson. May I talk to <manager’s name> for just a minute?”
“<Manager’s name>, hi. I’m Jack Anderson.”
(Shake the manager’s hand.)
“I’m looking for a summer job. Are you currently hiring?”
This will make a more powerful impression than 50 impersonal applications submitted online.
6. Remember, summer jobs aren’t really about the money.
Applying for and working summer jobs gives teens the professional confidence to go out and get real jobs when they’re in their 20s.
Psychotherapist and author Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—and How to Make the Most of Them Now says this:
“People feel less anxious—and more confident—on the inside when they can point to things they have done well on the outside. . . Real confidence comes from mastery experiences, which are actual, lived moments of success, especially when things seem difficult.” —Meg Jay
Walking into a business, asking for a job, and getting a job may be one of your teen’s first, best “mastery experiences.”
Do everything you can to encourage this.
7. To strengthen your resolve on this topic, listen to this podcast episode:
It’s titled 3 Reasons Every Teen Needs a Part-Time Job, and it’s exactly what you need right now.
And if you find yourself worrying that summer job earnings might diminish future college financial aid awards, listen to this additional podcast episode.
For inspiration on where teens find the best paying summer jobs, see Road2College’s article on The 15 Best Paying Part-Time Jobs for High School Students.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
This article was most recently updated on May 23rd, 2022.