Summertime Blues

Posted June 18, 2009, at 5:32 p.m.

More than 50 years ago Eddie Cochran sang the teen anthem “Summertime Blues” in which he lamented “workin’ all summer just to try to earn a dollar.”

For teens in 2009, the summertime blues may come not from working too hard, but from pounding the pavement trying to land a summer job in this recession-racked year.

There are strategies for improving the odds, says Nancy McKechnie of Bangor’s Career Center. A visit to the center is a place to start. Computers are available to check job Web sites, such as indeed.com and jobsinme.com, and to help produce a resume. The Bangor Chamber also is worth a visit with its list of 600 member businesses. More than anything, teens need to understand the effort required.

“It’s a full-time job looking for a job,” Ms. McKechnie said. She helps teens learn about work readiness — how they can be sure they will get to work on time each day, be dressed appropriately, learn to take and follow directions and work out conflicts. But the job search effort is also a skill.

Networking is an important step, she says, which means putting the word out to neighbors, teachers, aunts and uncles, dad’s co-workers and friends. Making the rounds, in person, at area businesses is also necessary. Though a 16-year-old may not have a lot of data to include on a resume, some neatly produced document is essential. Some job seekers hand employers a 5-by-7 card with the vital data, such as age, address, phone numbers, references and job interests. Stressing that transportation is not an issue also is smart.

Keeping a list of the businesses visited and being sure to meet the person responsible for hiring decisions are part of the search. “No isn’t always no,” Ms. McKechnie says. An employer who has all the help he needs on Friday may fire two workers on Saturday and see another quit on Monday, so it is important to return periodically (without being a pest). The in-person visits should come at appropriate times, i.e., not just before the lunch rush if the business is a restaurant.

And don’t visit wearing a belly shirt or shredded jeans. “You have to be mindful of how you look,” Ms. McKechnie says, with “neat and clean” a given, even if the job requires mucking out a horse barn. Lots of eye contact, a firm handshake and an expression of the willingness to work also are key.

If the job market is uncooperative, “I think they need to be entrepreneurial,” Ms. McKechnie says, with lawn mowing, gardening, painting, dog walking and child care among many possibilities. And if that’s not in the cards, there is always volunteering in the non-profit sector — the Humane Society, American Red Cross, United Way — which may lead to some paid work and certainly leads to skills to list on a resume next time.

And the best advice is to keep smiling. No one wants to hire a gloomy face.

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