If you're just out of high school, start looking now for a summer job

Young workers will have to scramble to land jobs — even unpaid ones — this summer, but the employment outlook for them is still brighter than last year.

"The economy generally is picking up," says Robert Trumble, a management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "If unemployment keeps inching down ... it increases opportunities for teens in the summer."

Other summer job search tips

McClatchy News Service

Network: Ask everyone you know, including neighbors, relatives, parents' friends or members of your church, if they know of any employers hiring this summer.

Some large employers will hire employees' children for the summer. Ask your parents to check if their employer is hiring, says Debbie Shalom, owner of Amazing Resumes and Coaching Services in Baltimore County.

Look at local companies whose products you like and use, and write to the human resource department about your interest in working there, Shalom adds.

Seek career guidance: Career centers can provide job leads as well as advice on interviewing and resume writing.

Think of the big picture: Some teens dismiss jobs, such as flipping burgers, as being beneath them. But entry-level jobs at the right company can lead to bigger things, says CareerBuilder's Erwin.

McDonalds, for example, has a reputation of helping employees work their way up the ladder, Erwin says. "A lot of people who started out making fries now own franchises," he says.

UPS is another that promotes workers within the company, says Betty Amend, vice president of human resources. She started at the company 27 years ago as a summer hire.

Also, if you can't find a paying job or can afford to work for free, consider an unpaid internship or volunteering at an organization, says Charles Purdy, senior editor with Monster.com

Not only can you pick up some skills that will look good on resume, but you will enlarge your network of people who may be able to help you find work in the future, he says.

Look the part: The biggest pitfall for teens is not taking a job search seriously, Purdy says. They fail to dress up and prepare for an interview or don't bother to write a resume, he says.

"For the employer, they don't see a summer hire any different from a regular hire," Purdy says. "They expect that same level of professionalism."

Last summer was the worst for young job-seekers since 1948, when the government began tracking the numbers. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in July — usually the height of summer employment — was 19.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was even worse for minorities. The unemployment rate for young blacks, for instance, was nearly 34 percent.

This summer isn't expected to be as brutal, but teens are encouraged to start looking for work early. They again will face stiff competition for part-time and entry-level jobs.

"Teens are running into college students and running into adults who have been out of the work force," says Michael Erwin, senior career adviser with CareerBuilder.com. "They will have to be scrappy."

Teens across the country also may have less help finding work because federal stimulus money that funded youth job programs in the last two years is no longer available.

To counteract the loss of federal stimulus money, the Labor Department last week announced a campaign to encourage businesses to hire 100,000 young workers nationwide this summer. Banking giant Wells Fargo and Research In Motion, maker of the Blackberry, each promised to hire 1,000 young adults. UPS, the delivery company, committed to hire 1,500.

Still, 100,000 new jobs won't be enough to fill the demand. A teen's best bet is to start their search before the field is too crowded.

"Get moving now. Don't wait," says Trumble. Summer may seem far off to teens, but not to employers that plan ahead. And the more ambitious teens are already knocking on doors, Trumble says.

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