The Value of a Summer Job

It’s the summer of 2009, and I’m looking to land a job. I paint the town with my resume, and even check back with each business a week later. To my distress, however, no jobs become available for a teenager with no prior work experience except doing chores for my parents.

Luckily for me, one of my parents’ friends hears that I like clouds (this is a true fact; I think that clouds are quite beautiful). Did I want to work for a meteorology lab? They were looking for new data processors. It was going to be boring work—running programs, and then fixing the programs when they inevitably crashed. On the upside, though, I could read while programs ran smoothly.

I said yes.

A few years later, I started college and took English as one of my majors. My supervisor heard I’d begun majoring in English, and asked me if I would edit some papers for one of the meteorology journals. I said yes again.

This first job that I started in the summer and then carried with me through the rest of high school and college gave me lots of things. I was getting a steady paycheck, and experience dealing with computers. I also quickly learned that explaining why you changed “which” to “that” is crucial to ensure no one questions your grammatical prowess. But I should point out that, amongst my peers, I was seriously lucky in getting the summer job I did. I didn’t have to work in a department store or kitchen, and I didn’t have to mow any lawns beyond the one at my parents’ house. I was lucky that I even managed to get a summer job: many students aren’t able to. I didn’t realize just how lucky I was until several years later.

A study was released back in 2014 that indicated work was harder to come by as an adult if you hadn’t held a job during your teen years. It also suggested that those who have work experience from high school will get wages that are 10-15% higher than those of individuals who hadn’t worked during high school. What that means is if you haven’t gotten a summer job by the time you begin trying on a career, landing a job with the pay you want can be much more difficult.

One of the most reliable ways to find work is by leveraging your existing network of friends, parents, even teachers to find unadvertised opportunities. Most people get hired because they know someone who knows someone who is looking for a part time employee. Keep your eyes and ears open, and let your friends and family know you’re looking. They probably know of opportunities that you won’t see posted on any job boards.

A great resource for teens looking online for jobs is the website Teens4Hire . You have to pay for premium membership, but it does offer free basic membership as well, and has job postings geared specifically for teens.

If you are unable to find paying work right away, it might behoove you to look into volunteer work. Volunteer work can be spun as unpaid job experience, and some volunteer groups do have certain paid members. If you put in good effort in a volunteer position, that can make you a good candidate for a paid job at the same organization.

If you’ve been waffling as to whether or not you want to go through the effort of looking for a summer job, I would suggest trying to find one. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Career Solutions Group offers services to help job seekers make successful transitions. If you are interested in scheduling a free initial career consultation with one of our counselors, email us at

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group