ALEX COHEN, host:
From NPR News, it's Day to Day. As the number of unemployed Americans continues to grow every day, it's becoming harder and harder for younger workers, especially teens, to find jobs. Here to talk about finding work when you're young is Michelle Singletary, Day to Day's personal finance contributor. And Michelle, just how bad is it for today's teens?
MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Well, the jobless rates for teenagers is 20.8 percent. So, quite...
COHEN: That's high.
SINGLETARY: Quite high. Yes, absolutely.
COHEN: So if you're a teen and you know that there aren't a lot of jobs out there, and who knows who you might be competing with, what can you do make yourself stand out?
SINGLETARY: Well, you know, teens looking for work need to be more creative and flexible. And I thought about some of the things that they can do to try to find a job in this very tight market. One thing is to become an entrepreneur. You know, start your own business. For example, if you live in an area where there are lots of seniors, you might sort of hire yourself out to help them out, perhaps run to the grocery store for them or pick up their medicine, or take them to their doctor visits. If a senior lives in a very congested area, where there's lots of traffic and trouble with parking, you might volunteer to drive them, drop them off, and then come back and get them after their doctor's appointment.
My 13-year-old daughter is - found a job right with her mom. I volunteer at my church once a month to give a workshop on financial literacy, and lots of couples couldn't come because they couldn't find day care for their kids. So we opened up child care, and I hired by teen to help take care of the kids. And so, that's one way to - she's earning a little bit of extra money. Read the business section and find out where there's new businesses, if any, even in this market - are opening up, and get there before everybody else to put in your application.
Network. You've got parents, and your parents have friends at jobs where internships are opening up. Give those resumes out to them and say, listen, when those come up, let me know so that I can apply for them. Then, also check the local park and planning departments. A lot of teens wait and just try to get employed during the summer, but there are jobs throughout the year that they can do on the weekend or after school, if their parents allow and their grades are good.
And then when the summer jobs open up, they'll be more in line to get those jobs because they've already been working there throughout the year.
COHEN: One of the advantages, I think, that adults would have is that most of us have been through several job interviews before. We kind of know the basics of what it takes. Teenagers might not have that kind of experience, so what they can do to prepare?
SINGLETARY: Absolutely, practice interviewing. I cannot tell you how many hiring managers I've talked to who - teens have come in, and just a disaster. They come in late. They come in chewing and smacking gum, come dressed inappropriately, and it's just a mess. If parents are listening, practice with your teens on how to interview for a job. And answer those standard questions that all of us are used to but they may not be.
You know, show up with a resume, even if it's a job where you only have to fill out a job application. If all things being equal and you show up with a nice, impressive resume and you're dressed nice and - you're going to get the job over that other teen that's showing up with jeans and is late.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: Michelle, you mentioned summer jobs; too soon to start thinking about that?
SINGLETARY: Absolutely not. One of the major mistakes that teens make is they wait until like maybe April or May to start looking for summer jobs and, particularly, internships. Now is the time to get out there and look for those internships, and a lot them have due dates in February and March. So you've got to start early. And even if the application process isn't going on right now, by the fact that you've started early, and you've put your name out there, I'm telling you somebody is going to remember that, that you were that good about making sure when the applications are due.
COHEN: Day to Day's personal finance adviser, Michelle Singletary. She also writes the Color of Money column for the Washington Post. Thanks, Michelle.
SINGLETARY: You're welcome.