Summer Jobs Develop More Than a Teen's Bank Account : MARY LAINE YARBER

Mary Laine Yarber teaches English at Santa Monica High School

For most Westside teens, summer is still dozens of homework assignments away. But those who want summer jobs had better start looking for them soon--the competition is stiff.

While most of the country is experiencing varying degrees of relief from recession, California is still having a tough time. Even college graduates are invading segments of the job market (at $5 or $6 an hour) traditionally claimed by high-schoolers.

It is wise to begin checking out summer job possibilities now .

The most immediate reason, of course, is to ensure you will have income for entertainment, family support, college, travel or other purposes. But summer work can also be educational in ways that classwork cannot. For example, students can learn job skills, develop social skills and discover which careers suit them.

That, in turn, can help them choose classes the following school year. Some kinds of summer work, in fact, are counted as credit toward high school graduation. Jobs in food service and retail, which are especially popular among teens, may garner five or 10 credits.

Getting a job--even finding out about openings--can seem daunting. Here are some tips:

First, decide what kinds of work you are willing to do.

Then consider your ultimate career goal: Are there summer jobs in that field?

Ask family members, neighbors, friends, and teachers if they have heard of openings, and visit your school's career center for bulletins of available jobs.

Too many teens overlook the newspaper's classified ads, which can lead you to real jobs much more quickly than does cold calling. But if you must cold call, try contacting big businesses that traditionally hire large numbers of teen-agers, such as hotel and retail chains, food chains and movie theaters.

Once you have made a list of businesses to visit, pick up applications. It's important to dress well and go alone, even though you're just getting an application, so you appear serious and independent.

Don't fill in the original application until you've made a copy for use as a rough draft. That way, you can ensure the application you turn in will be free of errors.

Staple a typed resume to the application. There are plenty of books, pamphlets and workshops on how to write good resumes, but several points are worth mentioning here. Start the resume by describing the position you want. Be specific: If the description is too generic, the employer may think you're desperate and unfocused.

In the "experience" section of the resume, list any previous jobs you have held. If you have had none, don't worry--most employers don't expect teen-agers to have much, if any, work experience.

The "skills" section should list all skills or talents that could possibly suit the job you want. Computer literacy and typing are especially attractive, so list them first. Don't fudge by listing skills you don't really have--it's hard to fake typing 80 words a minute.

In an "other experience" section, describe briefly any volunteering, club, campus activity planning or school office-monitor work experience you have had.

Dress well when you deliver the application and resume.

The job interview is generally the most important factor in hiring, and that is why entire books are written on the subject. But, again, dress properly. Avoid bright or excessive makeup, sit up straight, don't chew gum, maintain eye contact and answer each question completely. Do not digress.

Bring three letters of recommendation: one from a previous employer or volunteering supervisor, another from a teacher in your best academic subject, and a third in which an adult describes personal traits that would make you a good worker. Such traits may include punctuality, versatility and the ability to see jobs through and work without supervision.

Your school's career center could save you time by providing you with leads on real jobs, guidance on which fields are right for you and help in writing resumes and interviewing. The center's staff can also help arrange for school credit and a work permit if you're under 16.

I also recommend a thorough but concise booklet published by the Los Angeles County Office of Education: "Job Finder's Guide: How to Obtain and Advance in the Job of Your Choice." For a copy, write to the office at 9300 Imperial Highway in Downey, 90242-2890. Mention Publication No. 91-2-11R.

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