The Summer Job Hunt

Help your teen get a foot in the door

by jennifer molk

No more teachers, no more books! Summer vacation is just around the corner, but before your teen resigns himself to lazy sunny afternoons, get him fired up with a jump start on his job hunt.

While this year seems headed for the record books as one of the toughest for the nation’s economy, opportunities for teens are out there, even in Billings.

Judy Towlerton, a supervisor with Billings Job Service, says this year we’ll see a lot of competition for the good jobs, so the key is to start preparing now. “Many positions that are usually filled by a seasonal teen worker are being pursued and filled by an older worker,” she cautions.

But she says that doesn’t mean a teen can’t rise above the competition with the right strategy.

Where the jobs are

Billings offers a strong market for young workers. A recent survey at Billings Senior High School revealed over 35% of its students worked at some point during their high school years, despite the ups and downs of the economy.

Nursing Homes

Nancy Cook, a counselor at Billings Senior, says there are dozens of local reputable companies who encourage teens to apply. “Mission Ridge, St. Johns, West Park and Valley Nursing homes -- they hire a lot of our kids,” she says. “Those are wonderful jobs that are available to them. A lot of our kids work from five to seven in the evenings. They do meeting, greeting and seating. It’s great. It works with their school schedules very well.”

Age requirements vary with each position, and when it’s the right fit, Cook says some of the kids, by time they are juniors and seniors, are seriously considering a career in nursing.

Food Service

Other strong industries in Billings include those in food service. “Food service is always an excellent first job for teens,” Towlerton says. “They are able to develop long-lasting skills that benefit them throughout their entire career regardless what profession they choose.”


Summer is a great time to work outdoors. “A 15-year-old freshman does a really nice job of having their own lawn service, or having their own baby-sitting service,” says Cook. She suggests looking around the neighborhood and asking around; it never hurts to put the buzz out there. “The city of Billings is also a good resource in terms of the parks program.”

Other outdoor opportunities for fun in the sun while working including being a lifeguard, dog walking, or picking up or hauling out trash.

“Whatever they do,” Cook says, “it just has to be something where they show up, be responsible, and do a good job. Most people in Billings really like kids and work well with kids.”

What about work history?

For younger more inexperienced teens that are just beginning to build their work history, both Towlerton and Cook suggest pulling from childhood experience to fill in the skills category of a resume. “Selling Girl Scout cookies may seem like nothing but it teaches you how to go out and interact with people and how to present yourself,” Towlerton says.

If you don’t have any work history, let your strengths and skill be known. Academic classes that stand out on a resume include: Accounting, Business, Computer Applications, Keyboarding and Marketing.

Leave behind the flip flops and the friends

For reasons unknown to most of us, teens travel in massive groups, but that’s not the best move on a job hunt. “Go alone!” Towlerton urges teen-aged applicants. “Employers are hiring you, not your parents or friends.”

She lists the following to have in check before heading out the door:

αDress appropriately: No jeans, bare midriffs, flip-flops, cut-offs, excess piercings or tattoos.

αBe prepared: Have all the information you will need with you. Take two pens with black or blue ink, in case one doesn’t write.

αSell yourself: Tell the employer why you would make a good employee and back it up with examples from school, volunteer work, sports, clubs, neighborhood help, etc. “Use school activities, clubs they belong to or how they have helped neighbors. These develop teamwork, leadership and the ability to follow instructions,” Towlerton says.

The power of ‘thank you’

The value of a thank you note is powerful. It provides one last opportunity to thank the interviewer for their time, remind them who you are, entrench your interest in the position and establish your professionalism in their minds.

For an extra helping hand:

Cook says while school counselors are a great place to start for your teen in their job search, she and Towlerton both suggest getting them registered at Billings Job Service. They can do that in person at 2121 Rosebud Drive, or online at www.jobs.mt.gov. There are many pamphlets available at the front desk, including “Job Seeking: Being Prepared is the Key,” which is a step-by-step guide for the entire job seeking process, including a sample employment application.

With all of these tools available to today’s teens, there is no longer a position open for Couch Potato. SFM

Jennifer Molk is a freelance writer in Billings. She enjoys writing about topics and issues she herself seeks the answers to. She is a mother of two.

Good to Know!

There are many restrictions but also many allowances for minors under Montana’s child labor laws. Visit www.youthrules.dol.gov for more details on what ages are suitable for what hours and industries in Montana.

Get Certified!

CPR Certification

Northwest Research and Education Institute is a joint venture between St. Vincent Healthcare and physicians affiliated with SVH. Call 238-6182 to register for a class, including Pediatric First Aid, which would help snag a baby-sitting job.

Lifeguard Certification

The YMCA offers complete lifeguard certification for teens over age 16. Classes begin in May. Course covers CPR for the Professional Rescuer, First Aid, Oxygen Administration and YMCA Lifeguard. Call 248-1685 for a complete course schedule.

Rocky Mountain College also offers lifeguard certification classes for teens age 15 years and over. Course covers CPR for the Professional Rescuer and First Aid. Classes are ongoing, call 657-1045 for more information.

Consider Volunteering

It goes without saying volunteering is valuable. “Volunteering can be productive on many levels,” says Nancy Cook, a guidance counselor at Billings Senior High School, “experientially, in resume-building and for subsequent employment. It is a big asset on college applications, scholarship applications and is very good for the kids, as well.”

Billings Education Foundation’s Reading Rocks program runs six weeks over the summer. This is a reading program in the parks to keep children reading over the summer. “We are always looking for volunteers. It’s a great opportunity for teens to connect with younger students in the community and to carve out leadership especially with reading and literacy skills,” she says. “The time commitment is very easy to do, one hour a week for four to six weeks, and what they get back out of the program is substantial.” says Executive Director, Krista Hertz. Volunteers should be in high school and are asked to commit to four sessions. Download the Volunteer Application at www.efbps.org or call Krista Hertz at 245-4133.