It’s February, but it’s not too early to be thinking about the summer break. Whether your kids are in high school or college, you can (and maybe you should) begin the summer planning process now.
While you might think a plan begins with a to-do list, I believe a plan begins with a what-do-you-want-to-do list. Yes, the economy sucks and jobs are few, but you still have to decide where you are headed with this job thing. If you don’t, your 15 year old is likely to commit to about five minimum wage hours a week on a parks crew to which you will have to ferry her, while three blocks away is a twenty hour a week babysitting gig that suits her love of children much better.
Here are the questions for discussion.
- What are your goals for the summer job? (Not just your child’s goals, but yours.)
If this is the very first job ever ever, the most important thing is that your child have a good experience, learn some lessons about work in general, and build some lasting relationships for the future. But, if money is tight in your house and this job has to be about earning and saving as much as he or she can, that may mean that everything (except his or her safety) is sacrificed for earnings. If your son or daughter has a lifelong career dream, exposure to that career path may be paramount. The specific need sets the stage for setting goals. All jobs and all goals are not alike; to get the right job, you must have the right goal.
- How will the job fit into your family’s summer plan?
This simple question rarely gets a simple answer. Unless the child’s job is a priority for you, things will go badly when a.) there is no transportation to the child’s job, b.) your vacation plans interfere with work, c.) you try to become the boss of the job and set the schedule, d.) you want an emergency babysitter who is scheduled to be an usher at the local Muvico in ten minutes, and e.) you decide to teach a lesson by not waking someone up for an early shift.
Believe me when I tell you that many employers these days rank young people the absolute least desirable among job candidates, even for jobs that are traditional starter roles in the world of work. Why? Because they don’t come to work and often they don’t come to work because a parent doesn’t get them there. Or worse, a parent chooses to divert them from working. Reliability has to be the brand stamped on your child’s forehead; it is the number one desirable competency from the employer’s point of view.
- Why should someone hire your son or daughter?
Your son or daughter will tell the prospective employer whatever they hear you say. Is your son the strongest kid on the wrestling team? The best leader? The one who does his homework before dinner and before hanging out? Is your daughter the fastest blader on wheels? A fashion superstar? The nicest girl you know? An expert painter? Brilliant on the computer? What you say about them to your friends and what they hear you say is their core strength is what they believe and what they repeat. Whether they or whether you take primary responsibility for finding the summer job, discuss the answers to the question before it is asked.
Most intelligence about available summer jobs comes through connections, yours or your child’s, but the actual hiring is a function of good eye contact, a confident story told by the child that reflects what the community already knows about him or her, and the hiring manager’s belief that this particular child will show up and get the job done.
Therefore, the discussion you have in the course of planning should focus on goals, on how you will support the relationship between your child and the employer, and how your son or daughter will fit into the workplace, given his or her particular strengths and skills. Jobs may be scarce, but armed with a plan and your leadership your son or daughter can be among the lucky kids to land a gig for the summer.