Speaking to New York Parenting about Internships and Volunteering

Tips for Teens Seeking Last-Minute Jobs, Summer Activities

By Myrna Beth Haskell

Your teen is sprawled on the couch with a bag of chips and the TV channel set to MTV. Do you envision yourself being frustrated by your teen’s lack of activity all summer? Relaxation after a stressful and frenzied school year is probably much needed but, after a few days of rest, your teen should think about taking advantage of his free time and expanding his horizons.

Jobs are scarce these days, and many internship opportunities are filled in late winter. However, it’s not too late for your teen to plan a constructive summer.

Gaining experience, knowledge

When teenagers use their free time to expand their knowledge by volunteering, working or taking classes, college admissions officers and future employers take notice.

Carole Jabbawy, Ed.D., founder and director of Internship Connection in Newton, Mass., says, “An internship or volunteer experience is the first step to building a resume. Teens gain career exposure, which will be very helpful in sorting out a college major.”

Teens who plan to seek employment right after high school will also reap benefits from experience including:

* Building a resume

* Exploring interests

* Making “connections” in a specific industry

* Setting oneself apart from the crowd

Last-minute job opportunities

Teens should seek help from their school’s guidance office. Small businesses, hospitals, churches and nursing homes are always looking for extra help and usually welcome teen applicants. For last-minute opportunities, it’s best to canvas your neighborhood and ask about positions in person.

“While June may be too late for some internships, nonprofits are still quite busy in June and July, Jabbasy says. “Late spring is a busy time for fundraising events and extra hands are always welcome.”

Finding a paying job for the summer at this late date might be difficult; however, motivated teens can still find openings. Full-time employees often have summer vacation plans, so part-time positions become available.

“Business owners tell me that they don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with social networking,” Jabbawy explains. “They would love a teen to work on a project promoting their business through Facebook, blogging or Twitter.”

Summer college courses

Summer classes are great for teens who want to improve their academic resume. Jim Sirianni, assistant dean and director of Summer College at Stanford University, explains, “Very often universities will allow prospective students to enroll in summer courses right up until the first day of class. Students should check with multiple institutions in their area to see when summer classes begin, as some start weeks later than others. Large institutions tend to have a summer session office that oversees summer course offerings while the registrar’s office is a good starting point for inquiries at smaller colleges.”

Many colleges offer competitive scholars programs, academic camps or traditional classes that high school students can take in the summer. It’s imperative that students check to see if there is a minimum age, a required placement test, or documents their high school needs to submit before they apply.

Volunteering makes a difference

Volunteers are rarely turned away, especially in a down economy. Plus, teens can feel good about making a difference. “It’s wonderfully satisfying to volunteer for an organization that you care about,” Jabbawy says.

Teens should search for positions that will help guide them toward their long-term goals. For example, aspiring veterinarians could look for a position at an animal shelter. “An internship or volunteer experience begins the process of creating a professional network and can lead to a paid position in the future,” Jabbawy says.

Encourage your teen to ask questions and learn as much as she can while volunteering. Be sure your teen understands that showing up on time and being dependable is important even though she is not getting paid.

Places to look for volunteer opportunities:

* Hospitals and medical clinics

* Homeless shelters

* Libraries

* Animal shelters

* Youth centers/camps

Budding entrepreneurs

It’s never too late to start your own business. Possible entrepreneurial ventures include mowing lawns, painting houses, caring for pets while people are on vacation, fixing neighbors’ computers or cooking for the elderly. Teens can distribute fliers in convenient neighborhoods to get the word out.

Still stumped for ideas? Try these websites: www.dosomething.org and www.volunteermatch.org.

Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer and columnist specializing in parenting issues and child and adolescent development. She is the mother of two teenagers.


“Animal shelters need loving hands and warm laps.” – Melbra King, Shell Beach, Calif.

“Most churches run summer programs for kids. Our church has a vacation Bible school and we’re always looking for teen members to help, even if it’s last minute.” – Beth Ackerman, Staatsburg, N.Y.

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