School is nearing an end. If you need cash, why not ... get a job?

June 03, 2003|by JULIA COPLEY

School's nearly out. You're likely looking forward to two and a half months of unscheduled, uninhibited, unchaperoned dissipation.

Yet you know, insidiously, that after three or four weeks of this, it'll be so dull. And then the rest of your summer will consist of lying around the house, moaning that it's too hot and waiting for school to start so you can have a life again.

So ...

Make some money. Get a job. You can always find a way to dispose of $50 or so, and what better way is there to waste your summer hours than doing something that's not too unpleasant and brings in money?

If you're 14 or 15, however, you may be aware of the difficulties in obtaining that job. Maryland's law states that "minors 14 through 17 years of age may work, with a requisite work permit," according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Web site, Pennsylvania and West Virginia laws are similar.


If you're 15 and have a work permit, though, that doesn't mean you can get a job. From my experience two years ago, employers seem to want workers who are at least 16. Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces a law that says employers may not discriminate against age, that more often pertains to being exceedingly aged, which strikes me as being exceedingly picky.

With a little ingenuity, you could find a need to fulfill in your community, or you could try for the old standbys of newspaper delivery or baby-sitting, jobs younger teens often get.

So what is out there? Which are the least distasteful? Which have cool perks, like free food?

First off, there's the classic teen job, fast food service, and that's all well and good - if you like wearing a sexy paper hat and a logo-heavy golf shirt.

There's also camp counseling. For a modest stipend, you can clean cabins, reheat baked beans and wrestle screaming 10-year-olds into canoes. The bright side? No dorky uniforms - if you're lucky.

Park work is a possibility. Fifteen-year-olds and older are welcome to apply for tollbooth work in state parks. That doesn't sound so bad; you get a nice booth, stay there all day and charge people money to drive up and then get to operate that cool striped restraining bar: uuuup, dooooown. Dude, I'd do that for free.

Retail stores: You know what it is, and you get what you expect. Now's the best time to apply for this kind of job, before ravenous college students are climbing over each other for a job, any kind of job at all, and it's "The Grapes of Wrath" all over again.

Farm work: This is the suggested career for 14-year-olds, or at least it was when I was 14. But I haven't had much luck in this venture. Employers seem to already have people, or are too far from home, or would want you to do the really dirty work, like shoveling manure for five hours or storing bales of hay in July's solar fry-kitchen.

With all these tempting options, what are teens actually doing?

At Bentley's New York Style Bagels in Hagerstown, Justin Warner, 19, works as counterperson. He takes orders, runs the cash register and "solves crises."

He says he likes his job a lot, and that's a part to consider - actually enjoying the job you're assigning yourself. He's been at Bentley's for two years come September.

"I came in every Tuesday and just sat there until they decided to hire me." It worked well. He got to know his employers a little beforehand, to scope the place out. And they could see he was a fairly consistent, sane individual.

"Getting hired as a counterperson at an establishment I already frequented was most fortunate. In addition to making money, I am in an atmosphere that I feel accepted both as an employee and a person, the latter being the most important."

If you're looking for something less intimate, though, than dealing with people and selling them the caffeinated nectar of life, try the mall. Mall stores employ teens, so they can spend their earnings 50 yards away at another store. Some of the mall jobs require little or no experience and are not specialized.

The problem, though, is getting the job. There are a lot of teens in the area. A lot of them want jobs in Hagerstown. That means you can't plan, when you finally give in and go to the least undignified place you can find, on just getting the job. It's probable that you'll fill out eight or nine applications, wait forever and then get a call from one place that you didn't really want to work but that you'll take now that you're desperate. Then you're in. Bring on the uniform.

Julia Copley, a student at Hagerstown Community College, is an intern with The Herald-Mail.

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