Hire Yourself This Summer


“Ah, summertime!” Jim said to himself, stretching his lanky arms high above his head as he yawned his best thank-goodness-school’s-out-now-I-can-take-it-easy-I-love-summer-but-I’m-getting-bored-already yawn. He had been on vacation for two days. Most of his friends had left town with their families on vacations or already had summer jobs, and Jim wanted to work, too. But he was worried. He was 17, and that can be a tough age to find employment.

Across town, Tom was knocking on doors, again. He’d been at it not just since 8 A.M., but since March. “How is a 15-year-old supposed to get a job?” he asked himself. “Everyone I talk to tells me they have to give the work to the older kids. What am I supposed to do?”

Tom and Jim walked down the same sidewalk, saw the same “help wanted” sign, walked into the same office, and waited for the same man. When he came, he gave them both the same answer—the position had been filled an hour ago by a college student home for the summer.

The two frustrated job hunters sat next to each other on the curb outside.

“There’s got to be a way to get around this,” Tom exclaimed. “Too bad we can’t go into business for ourselves.”

“That’s it!” Jim jumped up. “We’ll dig up our own jobs. There’s got to be something other people don’t want to do, if we think about it hard enough … something like emptying garbage cans.”

“Oh, come on!” Tom said.

“No, really. Look, if we both worked together, we could get all the neighbors around your house, and all the neighbors around my house. We’d carry their trash cans out for them the night before the garbage man comes. Then we could come around the next day and wash all the cans out. If we kept everything clean and if we were really dependable, people would hire us to do it.”

“Maybe you’re right. My cousin used to make sack lunches for her dad. He rode to work in a car pool, and the other men liked his lunches—she always put a little extra treat inside or wrote him a note. Pretty soon she was making lunches for everyone in the car pool, and they each paid her. Maybe we could do something like that,” Tom said. He was starting to catch Jim’s excitement, but Jim issued a friendly word of caution.

“We might have to get a license if we start a restaurant business,” he grinned.

“Even for a lemonade stand?” Tom shot back. They both laughed.

The situation Tom and Jim faced is typical. Many teenagers have a hard time finding a summer job, especially if they put off worrying about it until school is over. For those who haven’t yet arranged for employment, the time to start thinking about it is immediately. Even those who figure they’re too young to get anything but a “try again next year” response from prospective employers would do well to begin brainstorming now about ways to invest their time away from school. Perhaps they’ll decide to follow Tom and Jim’s example and hire themselves this summer. It’s a viable alternative to teenage unemployment.

It would be wise, however, to keep in mind that going into business means assuming responsibility. Many communities have laws requiring licensing, payment of taxes, business permits, food-handling permits, work permits, liability insurance, and inspection of facilities, regardless of the age of the proprietor.

In the United States, state offices of the U.S. Department of Labor can furnish guidelines concerning both agricultural and nonagricultural labor laws governing youth employment. Most states also have a state Division of Labor or similar agency that will gladly furnish a copy of youth employment regulations. Many other countries have ministries of labor or other governmental agencies that provide information about labor laws for those under a prescribed age, usually 18. Most of the work ideas mentioned in this story require no special permit or license and are legal when conducted on a neighborhood basis, but regulations vary, and it’s a good idea to double check the law if there are any questions.

There are many ways to learn new talents, earn the respect of friends and neighbors, provide service, and gain some income at the same time. Perhaps the following list will generate additional ideas.

Thinking Ahead

Take care of things during summer that people normally put off until the last minute. For example, if you know how to use and have access to a camera and a darkroom, make photo Christmas cards ahead of time. Ask for help if necessary. Then make up some samples to exhibit. Take pictures while there is sunshine and good weather to pose them in; then deliver the cards early in the fall so customers have three months to address and mail them.

Summer’s a good time for cleaning rain gutters, changing air filters on furnaces, or cleaning out fireplace ash traps, before winter storms make the chores miserable.

Even people who do plan ahead often forget things when they come down to the wire. Why not combine a wake-up telephone agency with a reminder service? People might pay to have a cheery greeting reminding them to get out of bed on time, and they would certainly be glad to know they could depend on someone to remind them about birthdays, anniversaries, or critical business appointments.

Advance preparation includes storing up reserves. Help prepare fruits and vegetables for canning and learn valuable homemaking skills at the same time. Or chop and bundle firewood, including tree branches pruned and discarded by neighborhood gardeners. One group of teenagers spent the Christmas holidays stockpiling unwanted Christmas trees, then spent the summer trimming off the branches and sawing the trunks into logs so they could sell firewood in the fall.

Catching On?

By now you should be catching on to the job discovery method the same way Tom did when Jim started discussing garbage cans. Just think of things other people would be willing to pay to have done. Here are more ideas:

Wash and brush pet dogs and take them out for a walk; polish silverware; establish a mending service to sew on buttons and repair torn sleeves; help neighbors haul trash to the dump; wash shower curtains and repair their torn eyelets; form an oven-cleaning brigade that will also make refrigerators and sinks sparkle, for a modest fee; form a garage cleaning troupe. Two high school football players talked their fathers into lending them the money to purchase some wrecked cars and a piece of ground to store them on. They built a shed for an office, removed serviceable parts from the cars, inventoried them, and established a solid reputation for providing dependable used parts. When school reconvened, they sold their business at a profit.

Keep thinking, now. Try doing things people can’t do, don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do. Help a summer school teacher record grades or correct papers. Write letters for someone. Or stencil or etch identification codes on property to discourage burglars. Make puppets or sew doll clothes. One group of enterprising young people spent their summer making maps showing points of interest in their community. They were able to make a little money and also learned a lot about their town.

Be careful learning new skills, though. Several BYU students started their own worm farm and met with great success, but a young California man took up beekeeping only to find his insects were pollinating eucalyptus trees, producing honey that tasted like cough syrup!

You’ve Got Time

Lots of people would like to do thoughtful things but don’t find time. Why not run a “Dial-a-Smile” company. Anonymous services could include birthday cakes, singing telegrams, running errands, or cooking dinners.

People also run out of time for certain tasks. Help them fight procrastination by regularly vacuuming and chlorinating their swimming pool; watering all the plants in an office building; sorting, labeling, and organizing old photos and papers; making an official scrapbook for a civic club; or conducting a garage sale.

Build on creative ideas and talents. Prepare visual aids and bulletin boards; make signs, posters, or greeting cards; have a bedtime story service for young children; organize neighborhood puppet shows, art lessons, or informal concerts for younger kids (they’d be glad for the change of pace from regular babysitting, and you and your friends would get a chance to practice before an audience); offer to plan birthday parties, picnics, or dinner dates for brothers, sisters, neighbors, or friends and supply all food and entertainment; make and sell your own cookbook (without plagiarizing, of course); or organize an advertising agency for all the other kids who need publicity (run off handbills on a mimeograph machine and distribute them).

Save others money by doing things less expensively. It may not be feasible to run a copy center, for example, but how about organizing a center specializing in collating, hole punching, and stapling after photocopies are made; or one that addresses and stamps envelopes for large companies, freeing secretaries for work requiring more technical skill. If your friends are brave, they might even hire you to give them a haircut! Or save money yourself by becoming a car washer who specializes in house calls, using the customer’s water instead of your own.

A New Twist

Some jobs, of course, are traditional, but if you approach them from a new angle, they can be modified from mundane chores into exciting, or at least profitable, endeavors. Try specializing: One fellow was earning money repairing flat bicycle tires when he also discovered he could use the same kit to patch the elementary school’s punctured playground balls. Now he has a regular agreement with the school to maintain their playground equipment.

Take youngsters you baby-sit to a park, museum, playground, or play. Make sure, though, to keep them under control and to obtain parental permission before going. Instead of just regular cleaning, specialize in one or two things: become a chrome polisher for cars (most car washers fail to remove rust and tar from bumpers and hubcaps); instead of just painting, become a whitewashing or a trim expert; learn how to sharpen and repair garden tools; study cement work; plant trees. Governmental forest services in several countries hire local residents near forests to plant and thin trees, but with this and other jobs involving formal organizations, it may be necessary to obtain a work permit, generally issued only to those 16 years old or older, and to contract ahead of time for a specific number of acres. Contact regional foresters for details.

A specialist in cleaning and repainting small boats could readily establish a clientele. Or concentrate on polishing furniture. Rather than just taking care of someone’s yard, become involved in planning what will be planted, perhaps studying enough to know which plants will ripen when. In doing yard work, vary the routine to add some spice by forming a partnership with a friend and alternating tasks. Besides painting house numbers on sidewalks, clean, repair, and paint mailboxes.

One other idea—anything you know how to do, you can teach to others. Many young women spend summers teaching younger children how to do everything from macrame to horseback riding. A high school auto mechanic spent part of one summer teaching ladies in his neighborhood how to change flat tires, measure the battery fluid level, change oil, check tire pressure, and do other minor maintenance on their cars.

General Suggestions

Your brain gears should be well warmed-up and cranking by now. If ideas are flowing, take a moment now to write them down. Don’t worry about how silly they seem at first; judge them later. When the brainstorming list is finalized, however, it might be wise to review it, keeping in mind some of the following suggestions:

1. It’s a lot more enjoyable to do something fun. Enthusiasm will shine through, sometimes securing a job that otherwise would have gotten away.

2. In order to do a job immediately, it’s vital to already possess required skills and manpower. It may be necessary to wait until some training is completed.

3. Do you have the necessary tools and money to get started?

4. Can parents or friends lend help and advice if you get in a jam? Do you have your family’s support?

5. Once the enterprise is on its feet, let people know about it. Word-of-mouth will help, of course, but so will small classified ads or inexpensive handbills. Don’t overdo it. Do some work free for friends so that they will generate publicity.

6. If others are working with or for you, are they reliable? Your reputation may depend on them. Will supervision be required?

7. Some jobs require transportation. Not having a car, truck, or license may limit efforts to particular types of employment and may also reduce marketing area.

8. It’s hard to compete with real professionals. You’re selling comparatively amateur services, even though conscientiousness, honesty, and lower costs are generally on your side. Be frank about what can and can’t be done.

A summer job can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the school vacation, opening up the opportunity to develop new skills, eliminate boredom, and bolster self-confidence. Even if the employment market seems grim, there are lots of things to do around the neighborhood that will display resourcefulness. It’s not important to use the ideas listed here. Careful thinking adapted to local situations will generate others perhaps more practical for your area. Whatever works in a specific locality is fine. The point is, with so many things that can be done by hiring yourself, work is attainable.

Also, keep in mind the stepping-stone theory. The way your time is spent during junior high and high school summers may affect your potential for both future summer work and later, full-time employment. Mentally probe the future to see where what you’re doing will lead.

The real secret to finding a summertime job is to get busy long before vacations arrive. It’s too late to do that for this summer, but it isn’t too early to lay plans for next year. Here are some articles previously published in the New Era that offer valuable guidelines about steps to follow in applying for work:

“You Can Make It in the Summer Job Market,” by Jon M. Taylor, May 1972, p. 46.

“Summer Jobs: Keeping the One You Have or Creating a New One,” by Jon M. Taylor, June 1972, p. 42.

“What to Consider When Choosing a Vacation Job,” by Brian Kelly, April 1971, p. 40.

“Finding What Is Available,” by Robert Ghoslin, April 1971, p. 42.

“Canadian Jobs,” by Brian Woodford, April 1971, p. 43.

“How to Get That Vacation Job,” by Lynn Eric Johnson, April 1971, p. 44.

“What to Do If You’re Going Away to Work,” by Charlie L. Stewart, May 1971, p. 5.

“What About Summer Work?” Policies and Procedures, May 1971, p. 39.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull