When your teen can’t find a job

Nov 11, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. ET

Unemployment today is a huge problem -- not just for adults, but for teenagers who once enjoyed a wide open job market. Gone are the days of easily found seasonal and part-time jobs, leaving teens (and parents) hoping an economic turnaround is on the horizon.


Few American families have been left untouched by our difficult economic times. Nobody knows this reality better than the parents of teens. Teenage unemployment numbers are staggering, leaving a generation of kids with little to no hope for a job. If your teen is struggling to find a job, how can you guide them through this economic dip?

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Support, don't enable

As parents, we sometimes want to reach out and make it all better when we see our kids struggle. There is a fine line between supporting and enabling. "Many parents are used to being rather overly invested in their child's life so when they see them struggling to find a job, they are tempted to jump in and do things like write resume and cover letters for them, which prevents them from learning the skills of self-reliance," says Christine Hassler, generational issues expert and author of several books including The Twenty Something Manifesto. "Teach them resume writing skills by getting them a guidebook or scheduling a session with a career coach and then discuss what they are learning."

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Expanded skill set

While the economic situation isn't rosy, today's teens are definitely getting a solid dose of reality. "Use this time to invest in developing interpersonal and communication skills such as enrolling in a public speaking class, a writing class or taking improve lessons," says Hassler.

Help your teen figure out how she can set herself apart from her peers when it comes to employment. It may be as simple as engaging a potential employer in conversation during an interview or while inquiring about a job. In this age of social networking, polished communication skills can shine.

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Create a job

The teenage unemployment numbers aren't encouraging, but parents have an opportunity to alter their teen's perspective on the situation. This may just be the perfect time to pursue a passion. "Many young people are realizing that counting on someone else to hire them is not a guarantee and are seeing the perks of working for themselves," says Hassler.

If your child has a specific interest or talent, now may be the time to test the waters and explore the possibility of a career rather than a job. "Use this time to try out your entrepreneurial skills by starting a small, low risk/overhead business."

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Share your story

Just like their adult counterparts, teenagers may feel like giving up when finding a job turns out to be a full time job itself. Parents play a particularly crucial role in this situation, as teens will surely look to you for hope. "Keep the conversation at home positive," advises Hassler. "The more you as a parent seem panicked, the more teenage children are going to get panicked. Talk to your teenager about the steps they are taking each and every day and remind them that every rejection is an opportunity to learn."

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