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Where the Summer Job Market Is Heating Up

Friday, 10 May 2013 | 2:57 PM ET
Jeff Cadge | Getty Images

It's that time again—time for fresh faced youth to take their spots behind fast food counters, in stores and on lifeguard chairs.

The summer job market is upon us, and the good news is that there are likely to be more openings. The most recent annual summer jobs survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that even after a sharp increase in teen employment last summer, more openings are likely this year.

A second survey, by snagajob.com, an hourly employment network, found that 19 percent of the hiring managers who responded plan to hire summer help, up from 9 percent in 2012, and more of them think it will be "easy" for teens to find work.

That's a good thing, since these days, high school and college students aren't the only ones looking for summer employment. With so many in the over–60 set out of work for lengthy periods, or looking for supplemental income, the jobs competition between teens and older workers may be heated.

"I'd be foolish to say they don't compete with each other," said Kerry Hannon, the author of "Great Jobs for Everyone 50+."

Hannon says older workers are attracted to a wide range of seasonal jobs, some of which draw younger workers as well. "When they do job fairs for Major League Baseball and amusement parks like Six Flags, you see a lot of retirees showing up to apply," she said. But older workers also seek opportunities that younger applicants may skip, like work in RV parks that enables them to go cruising over the summer, or hiring themselves out as summer tutors.

In any case, high school and college students seeking jobs may have less competition than they think from their peers. In 2012, there were 11.2 million teenagers not in the work force, but only 1.2 million indicated they wanted jobs, according to Challenger, Gray.

"We're not in a culture where students work as teens the way they used to. When I grew up, you worked at drugstores and grocery stores and clothes stores. I painted houses and I mowed lawns," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray. "It's not as built into the culture today. They go to summer school. They go to camps."

One company that regularly adds to its workforce in the summer months is Home Depot. The company recently announced it will take on 80,000 seasonal workers this summer, up from the roughly 70,000 it added last summer.

"Spring is our Christmas," said Stephen Holmes, a company spokesman, adding that the retailer has openings for everything from "loaders in the garden centers to cashiers to sales associates."

There are also plenty of entrepreneurial opportunities, Challenger said. "Teens that have technical skills, programming skills, even Power Point skills, can do tech service and support. They can really find some high paying jobs that used to not really be available to teens."

Websites pointing to creative opportunities, like www.jobmonkey.com and www.coolworks.com, are other sources.

For more conventional jobs closer to home, both Challenger and Hannon stress that if possible, it's best to meet potential employers in person rather than applying online.

"Go talk to the store manager or retailer. Meet them in person and offer to help during hectic times. Point out that you have flexible hours," particularly if you are an older worker, Hannon said.

Challenger offers similar advice to teens. "Go to the mall, early or late in the day, ask if you can meet the store manager, and tell them you'd be interested in working there," he said. And since dressing for a job interview can be tough the first time around, Challenger suggested that young job seekers "go and check out how other people working in the store are dressing and try to fit that dress. Show that you can fit in."

Also, since dependability is not necessarily a hallmark of adolescence, Challenger suggests addressing it head on. "Make sure to tell them you will be reliable," he said. "You don't have to have much experience. Make sure you say you can be on time, be someone they can count on."

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