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Four Alternatives to Summer Jobs for Teens

If you're a teenager and can't find a job this summer, we have some suggestions that can one day bring in some serious cash. 

Many teens will be searching for work from retail outlets to restaurants this summer, but landing a job is going to be harder than it has been for a long time.

A research paper published by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston tells the tale. Last year was described as "the worst in post-World War II history" for teens looking for summer jobs, and 2008 is shaping up to be even worse. The study says that only a bit more than one in three (34.2%) of teenagers age 16 and older who are looking for jobs are expected to find one.

Much of the blame can be attributed to the current economic slowdown and decrease in consumer spending. Retail stores are hiring fewer cashiers and restaurants are hiring fewer servers. Competition for those spots is intense, and older laid-off workers also are vying for any open positions. So what are a teenager's options if there is no job to be found?

Instead of staying home and goofing off for the entire summer, be proactive. Take the opportunity to learn some skills so you won't have to rely on the summer job hunt in the future or that may benefit you in ways other than a weekly paycheck. Here are four suggestions to consider:

1. Learn E-Commerce

Take the summer to learn how to sell items online. For example, volunteer to work for free in an antique shop that sells both retail and with online auctions. If that proves to be a no-go, find someone who sells collectibles and antiques on eBay and volunteer to help them with their business for the summer. Your pay will be learning from them what sells, what collectors are after and where to find the collectibles they want.

By taking the summer to learn the basics of the collectible or antique trade (or any other commodity of interest that sells on online auctions sites), you will come away with a skill that can earn you extra money anytime you want.

Having this knowledge can also provide an excellent part-time job while you are in college because it allows you to determine your own work hours based on your college schedule.

2. Create your own job
Nothing beats entrepreneurship, and plenty of opportunities are available for you to make extra money.

Yard work, mowing lawns, house-sitting or babysitting are just a few of the many services you can offer that will allow you to earn some extra money. It will take more work than just showing up and doing what your boss says, but you also have the potential to earn a lot more.

You will need to spend some time to get the word out about your new venture, but even this exercise has benefits. Doing so will provide invaluable experience on how to run and promote your own business that you can use later in your career.

3. Volunteer
If a cause or project is dear to your heart, volunteer to help with it. In addition to making a difference, volunteer activities and the experience that comes with them will look great on both college and job applications. This can result in better job opportunities down the road. It may also qualify you for college scholarships.

If you work hard and make yourself a useful part of the team, you'll have a much better chance of landing a paid summer job next year doing something that you really enjoy.

4. Apprenticeship or Internship
If you have the desire to learn some specialized skills or learn more about a certain career, volunteer to be an apprentice or offer to do a free internship. In return for your work, you'll get skills in an area of interest that can launch you onto a career. It will also give you a great opportunity to find out if that is really what you want to do before spending time and money and discovering it's really not for you.

While you won't get paid, you will learn skills from an expert that can be extremely valuable in starting your career.

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