In the 1980s, the summer job was a rite of passage for high school students. Everyone had some gig lined up by the time coursework ended, and older students hung onto those summer spots when school started again in the fall. A lot has changed.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, close to 60% of teenagers were part of the labor force in 1979. By 2011, less than 35% of teenagers were workers.
You can help change that statistic!
A job helps you build skills and experience that could help you both in school and during a job search. There are plenty of companies looking for high school workers right now.
In this guide, we'll tell you:
Why working works for you. We'll dig into the skills you can pick up, as well as give you a few data points that could prompt you to start a job search today.
Some great jobs for teens. Opportunity is everywhere, but we’ve found a few positions that seem tailor-made for the teen lifestyle.
How to work smart. We’ll talk about how much you should work, and we’ll give you some ideas to help you craft a good work/life balance.
How to kickstart your career. We’ll explain how to get a job without experience, and we’ll illuminate the importance of hustle.
Why Should You Work?
As a high school student, you have a lot on your to-do list. Your classes are long, your homework list is longer, and you have chores to tackle around the house too. It’s easy to think about skipping a job search, but do so, and you’ll miss out on three key things that could make the rest of your life easier.
Starting a job in high school can give you:
Soft skills. Your education gives you a background in the tasks you’ll need to do the job right. A job, says Stanford University, can provide you with experience in time management, self-confidence, and perseverance. These are so-called “soft skills” you’ll rely on as an adult.
They’ll come in handy in any career path you might take. Juggling work and school, and excelling in both, is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.
Financial security. College is expensive. Experts say average tuition can cost up to $32,410 for private schools. While grants and scholarships help, they rarely cover the whole bill.
Each dollar you earn in high school could be one less you have to borrow after you enroll in higher education. You’ll thank yourself later for a smaller debt burden.
Experience.Researchers say 61% of full-time jobs require three years of work experience. It’s nearly impossible to get a job without proof that you can do it, and if you never start your working career, you’ll never get what employers want.
Your high school job may not be in your dream field, but it proves that you can hold down a position and do well at it.
Six Great Jobs for Teens
You’re sold on the idea of getting a summer job, but you can’t figure out where you should start. We have a few suggestions for you.
Six good jobs for high school students include:
Food Service Worker. If you’re willing to spend your evenings and weekends as a dishwasher, fry cook, or waitress, you could have plenty of job opportunities. Choose to work for a chain like McDonald’s, and you could start the job after your 16th birthday. The Pew Research Center says close to 40% of teen workers hold down jobs in the food services sector, so it’s a popular choice.
Dog Walker. If you’re athletic and you have a way with dogs, you could land a job walking pets for busy adults. Fido gets a break when the adults are away, and you get a little cash on the side.
There are websites like Rover.com that allow you to set up an at-home business, but you must be at least 18 years old to join. Some hotels and boutiques will hire dog walkers for guests, and if you're really willing to get dirty, you could take a job as a kennel cleaner or dog groomer for a veterinarian's office.
Construction Worker. We're building a lot in the United States, and that means companies like Bechtel and Skanska need workers to keep up with demand. Some positions require training, while others require you to be 18, but some entry-level positions can send you home with a paycheck and a marketable skill.
According to U.S. News and World Report, companies are hoping to fill 225,000 jobs each month. Their need could be your perfect fit.
Freelancer. Hiring a full-time worker is a big commitment for a company, especially when the project is small and time-limited. Freelance employees do the work, and their contract is up when the project is complete. If you have skills in graphic design, computer programming, website design, and other technical areas, this could be a good fit.
Companies like Fiverr can connect you with employers, but sometimes, the jobs are scams. It's best to work directly with a company on a task like this.
Babysitter. Almost every teen in the world has been asked to do this job. While it's not glamorous, researchers say the average sitter gets close to $20 per hour for two children.
You can set up connections in your community, or you can search on job boards. Hotels, day care centers, and some corporate offices are often in need of skilled sitters for workers and patrons.
Landscaping and groundskeeping. Put your green thumb to work in a position like this. Your mowing, raking, fertilizing, and trimming keep the land looking beautiful, and you'll take home a nice paycheck too. The median salary range is about $11 per hour, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Landscaping companies look for people like this, but smaller companies (including apartment complexes) need help too.
Tips to Help You Work Smart
The right job puts you ahead in so many ways, but you'll need to make sure that your work doesn't interfere with your school, family, and social life. It takes a little planning, but you can juggle all your priorities and do all your tasks properly.
Limiting your work schedule. Students shouldn't work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, experts say. Do more, they say, and your homework will suffer.
Keeping tasks separate. Don't do your homework while you're on the job, and don't tackle workplace issues while you're in class. Focus completely on what you're doing in the moment.
Making time for sleep. You'll need to rest to retain your school lessons, and some of these jobs are physical, meaning your body needs rest too.
Taking care of your mental health. Set aside time for family and friends. Keep up with your hobbies. Your teenage life should be enjoyable.
How to Get Started
Maybe you know just where to go to find the job you want. Perhaps it's an opening recommended by a friend or family member. If you're not sure, use our website, and search for positions by job title and location. You should find just what you're looking for.
Once you've identified a few positions, you'll need to work hard to land that job. You can do it by:
Emphasizing your value. You're entering the job market, and you don't come into a position with thousands of demands. That's an excellent selling point, and it should appear in your resume and cover letter.
Working your connections. Do you know someone who works for the company? Ask that person to speak up for you, your character, and your work ethic.
Grabbing learning opportunities. After you finish a project, ask for feedback. Find out what went well, and see how you could improve. That can help you prepare to do even better next time.
Asking for references. When your time at work ends, ask your bosses if they're willing to help you as a reference in the future. You'll need those contacts when you start hunting for your post-graduation dream job.
Most employers know that high school students don't have experience, and they want to help you get off on the right foot in your career, so there's no need to put too much pressure on yourself. Start your search now, and land the job you want later on in life.