This summer, jobs may be hard to get

Jovel Quierolo
Sacred Heart Editor

Freshman Brooke Thomas scooped 30 flavors of ice cream at the Tea Shop on Squirrel Island in Maine for eight weeks last summer. Only 14 years old, she made $130 per week at the small grill and ice cream store totaling $1,040 for the summer.

“It’s the best job in the world,” said Thomas. “Free ice cream for the rest of your life, learning how to work with people, and a stronger arm from all the scooping. What more could you want?”

Thomas says she hopes to be working this year along with millions of other American teens who are planning to find a summer job to put aside money for college or to pay for books or clothes. The current economic downturn is making retail jobs harder to get, but talking to friends now or applying early with a careful résumé can make finding a summer job easier.

Thomas visits Squirrel Island every year and got her job from the Tea Shop’s manager whom she befriended on her regular trips.

“Almost every teen works there at some point because the community is so small and he knows us all,” said Thomas. “It was pretty easy because I didn’t have to interview.”

For the rest of the country, finding a job has become more difficult. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows an upward trend in unemployment for American teenagers at 21.6 percent in February — higher than it has been in 17 years.

Working teens are most often found behind cashiers, at food establishments or in retail sales, the BLS reports. With the national number of layoffs averaging 25,712 per season, a student would be most competitive getting a job through someone she knows rather than competing for jobs already hard to get.

“When you’re looking, make sure you mention people you know that have worked for whatever job you’re applying for,” said junior Beth Levin, who spent a month as a camp-counselor for preschoolers at The Children’s Day School. Even though she attended middle school there, she still applied in March for the position.

“On my résumé, I put down that I was Red Cross certified and had a history as a good babysitter,” said Levin.

Levin made $10 per hour working from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for a month taking care of young children.

“I helped the little kids eat their lunch — making sure that they ate it and didn’t throw it on the floor,” said Levin. “I cleaned floors and tables and watched them nap.”

Teens like sophomore Elena Dudum who choose not to look for jobs by word of mouth can start carefully filling out applications at anytime. Dudum is currently filling out forms to work at a makeup counter this summer.

“I enjoy buying, wearing and playing with makeup,” said Dudum. “I want to make money and enjoy the work I do, and I enjoy makeup.”

To be hired, Dudum has to undergo a mock makeup session. Most jobs require the learning of a skill or, more importantly, development of general good work habits.

“The worst résumé to get is a sloppy one or one that is practically blank,” said Trevor Brown, a lead barista at Tully’s on Fillmore street who looks over résumés of perspective employees before choosing. “You can still make a simple clean résumé without tons of experience. Regardless of experience, we want someone responsible — someone who can take directions and is willing to learn.”

Employers look for applicants who will enjoy the work and commit to the hours they choose.

“A person needs to like the job or they will not be able to commit,” said Pets Unlimited volunteer coordinator Pat Boyd, who looks at applications much like an employer does. “The application is important because we want a good mix of responsible people willing to learn.”

Whether or not students take jobs for money, they take away experience from filling out résumés to being active in the work place.

“I had to work at a desk with cubicle and computer and clocked-in on a time sheet every day,” said senior Joelle Santos, who worked at the California Public Utilities commission (PUC) as a student aid earning $10 per hour.

“My dad referred me, but I still had to apply. I worked 8-hour days filing complaints and inquiries, and attending meetings. Being exposed to the work place and work hours was interesting, but it was hard work.”

According to Thomas, first-time job experience is unforgettable and teaches important lessons by trial-and-error.

“It was an incredibly scary first day on my first job — I didn’t want to screw up,” said Thomas. “A college girl trained me and showed me the ropes. Scooping ice cream is a much more complicated job than you think. It was a challenge at first — tough to remember those orders — but I finally got it.”