Help your teen get a summer job

Given the dearth of positions out there, it'll pay (literally) to be strategic.

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By Jennifer Barrett, Money Magazine contributing writer

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(Money Magazine) -- Better get your pep talk ready. "It's going to be a bleak summer for kids looking for work," says Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.

Many seasonal positions typically filled by high school and college kids - including internships - have been eliminated. The jobs that are left will be increasingly offered to older, overqualified applicants, says Sum. To minimize your teen's couch time this summer, think about the objective first and the strategy second.

Objective: Earn money

Need your kid to help feed his college fund or mall habit? Have him start job hunting now. A survey found that 74% of employers with summer openings plan to fill them by May. Those lucky enough to be hired will earn an average of $10 an hour.

Besides culling classifieds, calling camps, and contacting family friends, your child should search and for jobs above minimum wage ($7.25 as of July 24). Also have him check local government sites: The stimulus plan set aside money for 1 million summer jobs for youths.

And suggest that he pop into discount stores and fast-food chains, which are weathering the recession and may be hiring. To increase his appeal to employers and his earning potential, have him offer to pick up afterschool or weekend hours before school's out, says Ivan Charner, director of the AED National Institute for Work and Learning.

Objective: Gain experience

Does your kid need a leg up on college or a career? Help her identify businesses that mesh with her interests, particularly more obscure ones; she'll face less competition. Many short-staffed firms could use extra hands at minimum wage. But if they can't pay, your teen may be able to arrange an internship for academic credit via her school's career center.

Don't overlook volunteerism; it's a résumé and character builder. Plus, you can usually find a charity gig in line with a career path. For example, a finance major can do fundraising.

Try not to worry too much if your kid doesn't land the perfect position. It's a tough year. And even the most menial job can build a teen's work ethic, which helps in terms of future employability, says Charner.

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