The Teenage Summer Job: A Learning Experience if You Can Find One

Connecticut seems to be faring better than the national average, but it's still tough to find work.


I had some seriously awful summer jobs, but the one that all but left me in need of serious therapy was working for Cumberland Farms the summer after I graduated from high school.

I worked the night shift, alone, either watching giant cockroaches scurry under the counters or trying in vain to get my friends to stop coming in and stealing Twix bars. What was my mother thinking letting a teenage girl work alone at night where there was a cash register? Probably that someone had to pay for college and that someone was me.

Two years later, I spent my best summer ever working at Disney World, so I guess that made up for it. I actually got college credit for that because it was part of the Magic Kingdom College Program. I lived with students from all over the United States in Snow White Village on Seven Dwarf Lane. 

Although I was not Snow White, due to my green eyes and very strong Philadelphia accent, I did work in Tomorrowland in Circlevision where visitors never moved but still managed to throw up on a regular basis. Once a week, a bus with a picture of Mickey Mouse in a cap and gown on the side picked us up and whisked us off to classes at Disney University (Go DU!). 

From what I read, teenagers across the country are less lucky than I was. According to a report from the Center for Labor Market Statistics at Northeastern University, the employment rate for teenagers this summer is between 25 and 27 percent. Ouch! That’s about half of what it was a decade ago, which still wasn’t so great. I did some very thorough research on this matter, which means I asked my friends who don’t live in Connecticut, and they concur that their kids are having a very hard time getting jobs this summer.

However, Connecticut seems to be doing better than the national average. WFSB reported this month that 157,000 teenagers between 16 and 19 years old found new employment in May, which is double what it was a year ago. In another very formal research analysis — meaning I asked my students and my kids’ friends what they are doing this summer — most seem to be getting some sort of job.

They may not be glamorous; a kid in my neighborhood is selling kitchen knives door to door, and one of my students is doing political canvassing, but they are earning money. Most of the kids I polled are working either at summer camps, including both of my sons, or as lifeguards. 

Aside from the pessimism spread by the research studies, kids who are resourceful and willing to get their hands dirty are more likely to get jobs.  What I find interesting is that the jobs they are getting seem to be the same kind of jobs kids were getting when I was a teenager. Just make sure they avoid working anywhere that requires them to stand alone in an industrial-sized refrigerator stocking milk at 3 a.m.

Sharon Stegall July 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM
One of the reasons it's harder for teens to get a job is that many employers now have a policy to not hire anyone under the age of 18.


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