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Teens! Get the summer job of your dreams
Knowing where to look and how to act are the keys to nailing the job you want. Check out these tips from the experts

NBC Today show
Updated: 8:27 a.m. ET May 3, 2005

By the age of 14, 80 percent of teens want a job, either to earn money or to help prepare for the future. But with so many college grads looking for work, teens searching for summer jobs have found that the number of available opportunities has shrunk. Even so, determined adolescents — especially those 18 and older — will find plenty of ways to make a buck while school is out. Renée Ward of — a Web site 14- to 21-year olds can use to find and apply for jobs — was invited on “Today” along with Nora Coon, the 16-year-old author of "Teen Dream Jobs: How to Find the Job You Really Want."  They shared tips for how teens on break can make the most of their time off.

What are the best places for teens to look for a summer job?
·  Government-run programs
·  Vacation and tourism spots
·  Airport concessions
·  Child care and elder care
·  Health care
·  Moving and packing
·  Pools and spas
·  Lawn care
·  Construction
·  Movie theaters
·  Ice cream parlors
·  Juice bars
·  Clothing stores
·  Zoos
·  Museums

Follow your passion
Nora Coon, 16, was an intern at a publishing house for a year and a half, and then submitted her book proposal. The publisher accepted it, and soon “Teen Dream Jobs: How to Find the Job You Really Want” was hitting bookstore shelves. She explains how she got her start.

Why did you write a book about finding your dream job?
I saw how I'd been able to do it with persistence and luck, and I knew a lot of teenagers get stuck with jobs they don't enjoy. I wanted other teenagers to see that they could get jobs that really interested them and fit with their passions. 

What's your advice to a teenager who wants to find a good, fun job?
Go with what you love.  If you have something that you really enjoy, look around for a job that will let you have an experience with that.  If you love animals, you could work at a pet store, volunteer with the Humane Society or intern with a veterinarian. 

It's one thing to volunteer, but what if you're someone who wants — and needs — to make some money?
Sometimes you do have to make compromises.  But no matter what the job is you can always use it as a starting point.  Let's say you like art, and you play soccer. You can get a job coaching a younger kids' team. You're still doing something you're interested in, you're getting paid and you're getting experience with kids, so next time you can apply for jobs teaching art to kids. 

Practical advice
Renée Ward is the founder of, a free membership-based site for young adults aged 14 and older. The site is a national online career center for businesses and organizations that recruit high school and college-age workers for full-time, part-time and seasonal work, as well as for apprenticeships, internships and volunteer opportunities. Here are her tips.

What does the summer-job outlook for teenagers look like this summer?
We feel there will be more openings that teens could fill than last year. That doesn't mean that teens are going to land those jobs.  Employers want the best people for the job.  If an older person applies for a new opening and they will accept the same rate of pay that a younger teen would, employers will prefer to take the older, experienced person over a younger, inexperienced teenager.  That's just business sense.  However, they still have to choose among the applicants they have, regardless of age.  A dynamo teenager still has a chance of landing a job they want.

What about local businesses?
Those opportunities still exist, but because of tightening child labor laws, some jobs — like working in the kitchen of a drive-through restaurant — must go to those 18 and older.  Most retail stores also want to hire people 18 and older, along with casual dining restaurants that serve beer and wine. However, younger teens can still be a busboy or a host at a restaurant.

Are younger teens better off volunteering or interning to get their foot in the door, rather than looking for something that doesn't pay very well or is a dead-end job?
Our surveys show that teens want a paying job.  They need the money. But in the event you can't find a paying job you can volunteer with some great organizations. Hospitals, for example, really like young people to lend a hand. 

What's your best advice for a young person looking for a job?
Be ready to nail that job application.  It used to be one page, these days it's four to eight pages.  It needs to be filled out completely and accurately with neat handwriting and no spelling errors.  Even when you're asking for an application be sure to make a good impression.  You may get an interview right on the spot.  And be ready in case that does happen — make eye contact and have a firm handshake.

You may be asked to take an assessment test.  At Home Depot and Target they'll test you to measure your propensity for theft and teamwork. Don't blow off these types of tests.  The companies will evaluate your assessment and hire you only if you qualify.

The top three places teens would like to work:
Retail stores
Jobs they want: Stocking inventory, sales, customer service
Teens like to work indoors with air-conditioning during the summer.  They like the commissions and store discounts retail outlets offer to employees.

Jobs: Host, waiter, bus person
Teens like the tips, food discounts and social atmosphere of restaurants.

Jobs: Clerks, telemarketers
They can use computer skills learned in school to work in customer service, as clerks or as telemarketing sales people or operators.

© 2005