How bad is the paint-dry-watching-boring working world going to be? Well, that depends on you. Jobs are a bit like high school—how much you enjoy it depends on if you're learning new things, meeting new people and have cool teachers (bosses). And if you can sing like Steven Tyler and your first job is a modern analog to Aerosmith’s first gigs then… well… lucky you. Shmoop's perfect gig quiz is designed to help you eliminate jobs that won't work and find a gig that's tolerable...maybe even great.
First, let's find out a little bit about you.
1. The most important thing to me is:
A) Looking good for college admissions reps.
B) Looking good when I hand a bank teller my fatty check.
C) Having time outside of work to look good at the pool.
D) Making my resume look good.
E) Having independence.
2. After high school I plan on:
A) Heading straight to an elite college. I didn't keep my grades up for nothing.
B) I have no idea.
C) I'll probably do whatever my friends do.
D) College then getting my MBA. Maybe law school or a Ph.D. program after. I have a plan.
E) Studying my craft. I already know what my future profession will be so I'm heading to a college or conservatory to develop my skills.
3. My eventual goal is to:
A) Land the top notch job at the company of my choice and climb the corporate ladder to the top.
B) Make some money and live comfortably. I don't really know how right now.
C) What? I'm still trying to decide on what to have for breakfast.
D) Build my own company. I'm CEO-bound baby!
E) Stay focused and do what I love, whatever that may be at the time.
4. I describe myself as:
A) A go-getter.
B) A realist.
C) A people person.
D) A risk taker.
E) A free spirit.
5. If money weren't a factor, I would want to:
A) Be a professional student. Multiple Ph.D.s, no sweat.
B) Devote my life to my hobbies and interests.
C) Meet people and hang out with my friends.
D) Build a business from nothing.
E) Keep honing my craft.
Ok, let's add 'em up:
A = 1 point
B = 3 points
C = 5 points
D = 7 points
E = 9 points
Score 5-12 points: You're smart, you're driven and you've got an almost intimidating amount of ambition when it comes to conquering the working world. An internship is a good place to start for you.
13-20 points: It's cool, you haven't decided on a single career path yet. Retail and service gigs will get you a bit of work experience without too much pressure.
21-28 points: Making connections is clearly your strong point. Food service jobs will allow you to socialize with coworkers your own age plus customers.
29-37 points: Forget having a boss. You want to be the head honcho and the fastest way to do that is to create your own company.
38-45 points: You're focused. You're independent. And you're not afraid to take the road less traveled. You might make an excellent freelancer.
Hey, Ambitious Annie! Your foothold to the world of real work is right over here. Internships are basically mini-work experiences that allow fresh-faced high school and college students (like you) to see what working in a particular field is like. Unlike traditional part-time jobs, internships are designed to give you an intimate look at the industry you're eyeing. You could be creating full-scale advertising campaigns, analyzing sales data, editing books...basically exactly the same things that people with full-time jobs in that field do. Beats the heck out of flipping burgers.
Interns can work part or full-time and can typically find work in just about any field—seriously, there are internships in everything from social media to sea turtle rescue. Can you fulfill your dream of getting paid to tend to baby turtles all day? Why, yes. An added bonus is that both colleges and future employers love internships like dogs love steak. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly 40 percent of college interns become full-time workers at the organization they interned with after they graduate.
The drawback is that students don't become interns for the money. About half of all internships are unpaid AND if you want college credit for your internship, you'll probably have to pay your school tuition even though you're not physically on campus. (We know, it's unfair). Instead of pay, interns get a fabulous resume booster, industry contacts and a chance to see the inner workings of an industry before they choose their college major.
Pay: Weak sauce. Half of all interns don't get paid and among those that do, many only get minimum wage. That said, there are amazing opportunities available. Who cares what the pay is if you're getting to be a video journalist for CNN or designing wicked 3D realms in Nickelodeon's Virtual Worlds gaming?
Employment Outlook: Strong like a bull. The upside to working for free is that work is available everywhere. Sites like Internshipprograms.com, Internjobs.com and Idealist.org offer more opportunities than you can shake a stick at.
Social Aspect: Varies. Large organizations frequently have HUGE internship programs that pull in young go-getters from every corner of the country. Smaller organizations, not so much.
College impact: A+. Colleges have a vast and deep love of internships that far transcends even the deepest love between mere mortals.
Resume impact: A++. Employers are fanatical about interns. Expect screaming when you hand over your resume.
Hazards of the job: Potentially dull (or awesome?) work, a professional dress code and code of conduct. No slackers here. Internships are also notorious for making fresh-faced students do gopher work. Checking out how big the internship program is and what exactly interns do there can pay off in spades.
Perks: Invaluable networking contacts, job experience and friendships to last a lifetime...or at least until you go back to school.
Also try: Ambition, drive, focus...many of the same skills that make for good interns make for good freelancers and company heads too. Both look like gold to employers and admissions reps.
Retail and Service Gigs
Your physics partner is spending her summer stocking shelves at Hollister, your cousin is manning the register at Home Depot and your best friend's sister is ushering at the local multiplex. Everywhere you look, someone you know is unloading boxes, ringing up purchases or pointing customers in the right direction. That's because stores and companies that provide customer service—think everything from roller rinks to country clubs—need young labor like deserts need rain. Those who do well get invited back year after year.
Pay: See this? These gigs are the opposite. Most retail and service jobs pay between minimum wage ($7.25) to $11 an hour. Legally, employers can pay underage employees $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days on the job.
Employment Outlook: Very good. Retail and service gigs for teens abound, but tend to get snapped up early on by all the other high school and college students.
Social Aspect: High. Retail gigs hire lots of teens so you'll have many comrades.
College impact: Low. Yes, your wardrobe will substantially improve thanks to the summer you spent at Abercrombie, but your college application probably won't. Sad trombone.
Resume impact: Mid-low. Retail gigs lead to other retail gigs (and the same is true for service), but that's about it.
Hazards of the job: Uniforms, bossypants bosses, standing for hours on end and an unwritten rule that employees have to act excited about boring-beyond-boring things like inventory that, honestly, nobody really cares about.
Perks: Easy peasy work and a sweet discount.
Also try: Food service jobs have the same high sociability factor while internships provide a resume and college application boost.
You're sweating. Your feet feel like they're leading a revolution against your body after ten hours of nonstop running. The guy at Table 12 is disproportionately angry with his grilled chicken salad and if you hear your crustached manager say "Time to lean is time to clean" one more time today, you're going to go all Kill Bill on him. The only thing numbing the pain right now is a pocket full of tips.
That's the exhausting life of someone in food service. Restaurants, cafes, snack bars and fast food joints need teens to flip burgers, ring up orders and send hot plates from kitchen to diners. The pay is laughably low—$2.13 per hour—but the tips even it out.
Pay: Fast food employees, hosts, cashiers, dishwashers and kitchen help get paid hourly, anywhere from $7.25 to $12. Waiters and bussers earn as low as $2.13 per hour plus tips though some states require hourly pay as high as $8.50 per hour. Like retail and service jobs, food service employers can legally pay worker $4.25 per hour for their first 90 days of employment. Be crystal clear about your wages before you start.
Employment Outlook: Tops. Food service jobs are everywhere and they turn over fast.
Social Aspect: High. Teens practically run the food service industry so you'll be in familiar company.
College impact: Low. Internships, summer enrichment camps, starting your own business, research projects...these things woo admissions counselors. Working the Applebees lunch shift—even though it's a legitimately hard job—just won't.
Resume impact: Retail and food service jobs are good first jobs, but they won't reel in a better job down the road.
Hazards of the job: Uniforms and a break-neck work pace.
Perks: The pay can be great, the co-workers can be fun and moving on your feet sure beats the hell out of watching the clock tick by.
Also try: Retail and service gigs are traditional teen work havens but freelancing or taking on an internship look better on a resume.
Creating Your Own Company
Cameron Johnson didn't go to business school. Starting several web-based companies in his teen years, the Virginia native was bringing in $15,000 in revenue a day by the time he got his learner's permit.
Johnson, Bill Gates and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg all created their own businesses before they got real world jobs. They also made money while their friends were paying off their student loans. A good idea, a little business savvy, some start-up dough and a few great mentors are all it takes to get started.
Pay: We don't want to kid you. Most businesses take several years to become profitable. Your company could end up like this or like this. This is an endeavor for ambitious teens looking more for experience than pocket padding.
Employment Outlook: Great. No competing with everyone in your high school class for jobs, no convincing a boss that you really do have the skills it takes to pour coffee for idiots at Starbucks. You are one step away from starting a company, all you need is one good idea. These sites can help.
Social Aspect: Good. Expect to hobnob with mentors, clients and anyone else that can put your company on the map.
College impact: Stellar. The only thing colleges like to see more than initiative in a candidate is the ability to think outside the box. Starting your own business, even if it fails, will prove both.
Resume impact: Also stellar.
Hazards of the job: CEOs do everything, from running the business and doing the books to marketing and taking out the trash.
Perks: Unlike other jobs, you own this one. You can open when you want, close when you want, work without pants on, take all the company revenue and cash out when you need to. You'll also get the self satisfaction of being your own boss and frankly there's no price that can be put on that.
Also try: Creating your own company requires time, patience and maybe even start-up capital. Freelancing and taking an internship can look good on your resume while you earn a paycheck.
Freelancing is just a fancy word for working for yourself. That can mean typical teen jobs like mowing lawns, running errands, babysitting, petsitting and detailing cars, but freelancing isn't limited to just that. If you can dream it, you can do it. There's plenty of money to be made from designing web pages, updating blogs for companies, illustrating, running social media campaigns (yep, companies will pay you to run their Twitter accounts), building smartphone apps, taking photographs, painting houses, tutoring, teaching music lessons or anything else you have a talent in.
Pay: It depends on your price and how many clients you have. The hourly rate on freelance work is usually well above minimum wage—it's not unreasonable to charge $10-$20 per hour to give your neighbor's son tennis lessons—but you'll have to find clients for yourself.
Employment Outlook: Varies. That's an aggravating answer isn't it? Well, it's true. Freelancing is a matter of supply and demand. If there are lots of people in your area doing the same thing, good luck finding clients. If you're the only one in your neighborhood cleaning gutters or weeding lawns, business will boom.
Social Aspect: F. Scratch that, F minus since most freelancers work alone.
College impact: Low to high. How much your freelancing gig catches higher education's eye depends on what kind of freelancing you're doing and whether those skills will help in your future career. If you're building iPhone applications because you want to be the next Steve Jobs, hats off to you, chap. If you're babysitting on weekends but dream of studying veterinary science in college, your freelancing job probably won't turn any admission heads.
Resume impact: Learning new skills, earning a new license or certificate, putting together a portfolio or upping your business skills as a result of your freelance gig will give your resume a big ol' boost. Freelance gig that don't provide you with new skills or expand your mind won't make your resume shine.
Hazards of the job: Wrangling in those first few clients. (Here are a quick 101 suggestions to get you started. Sites like Elance, Guru and Freelancer can also help).
Perks: Making your own schedule, better pay than your friends and the ability to do what you love: priceless.
Also try: With your independence, creating your own company could be a good fit or landing a supercool internship could take your skills to the next level.