Summer Opportunities: How Can I Get a Job?

For most teens, the answer to the question “What am I going to do this summer? is to find a summer job. After all, you’re growing in your need for independence and cash. At the same time, finding work that lasts only a few months can be daunting. Unsure about applications, resumes, and work permits? If you are a student or soon-to-be graduate, it’s not too late to start researching your options for summer jobs.


a student with a surfboardThe first few days after the school year officially ends have their own special charm. You can sleep in, leave your backpack in the same spot, and, if your parents let you, watch entirely too much TV or spend all day at the beach, surfing. You might hang around in your pjs until noon and have a sleepover on a Wednesday. After all, it’s no longer a school night.

Then, it happens. In the middle of the school year, when you long for summer, it’s easy to forget that it happens every time. But after the first days of summer settle in, that’s when it comes: the boredom. What do you do to fill your time?

student reading a newspaperFor most teens, the logical – and best – answer is to find a summer job. After all, you’re growing in your need for independence, and cash. At the same time, finding work that lasts only a few months can be daunting. Unsure about applications, resumes, and work permits? If you are a student or soon-to-be graduate, now’s the time to start researching your options for summer jobs or activities. Read on – many of your questions are answered below by a simple click of your computer mouse.

But I’m not 14 yet
student putting money into a piggy bankIn Hawaii, you have to be at least 14 years old to work legally at a restaurant, hotel, or a shop in the mall – the common places teens find summer work. What if you’re 12 or 13? You’re old enough to do some work and earn some money. Plus, with the rise in college costs, it’s never too early to start saving. (You may not want to hear that, but if you told your parents you want to help save money now to help pay for your college books, chances are they won’t turn you down.) You might not be able to work full time, but most young teens are able to perform tasks that many adults are willing to pay for.

baby sitter and child riding swingsThe most common job for the under-14 crowd is to babysit. This is one job that will always be in demand. Many parents struggle with finding day care for their kids in the summer months – chances are your parents went through that themselves when you were younger. You may not be able to babysit for 40 hours, but there are many parents who would be willing to employ you for a few afternoons or evenings to watch their toddlers and elementary school kids. In fact, being on the young side of the teenage years is an asset, because you probably still like to (secretly) play some of the things the kids do. So you’ll have fun and make some money while doing it.

student holding a Red Cross certificateThe best way to convince parents that you are a good candidate for babysitting is to take a class in basic child care. The Red Cross Hawaii State Chapter at is a good place to look for these classes. You can register for these classes on-line by clicking on Get Trained then on Youth Courses. Certification in First Aid is also an excellent qualification. Keep all your certificates (and in good shape, too – a stiff folder prevents creases nicely) to show interested parents. You can also note the dates and titles of your training on a brief resume that highlights your skills. While you may not have much to put on a resume, it is a professional touch that many potential employers will admire. To find out more about creating a resume, go to Job Search Aids. Check out the ’How to Prepare Your Resume’ and ’Sample Resumes’ for ideas.

student with a lawn mowerAnother very common job for kids in your age group is yard work or lawn care. Many homeowners mow their grass once a week, and you may have heard your mom or dad grumble about having to do it. So use this as an opportunity! Why not advertise your services in your neighborhood? You could even offer an “introductory rate” for your first mow, to show homeowners you’re detailed and hard-working (so, be sure to really do a good job).

But why not take it a step farther? In addition to mowing lawns, you can spread mulch, pull weeds, trim hedges, and pick up yard debris. It’s physical labor, but often you can do it while working in beautiful weather and listening to some tunes on your iPod. (And if you don’t have an iPod, earning some money is a nice way to get one!)

Good with animals? Dog walking is in demand, especially by people who work during the day, leaving their pet dog at home. Stopping by to let a dog out and give it some exercise is something many people will gladly pay for, and the dog will be happy too.

student with a watering canIn the summer some of your neighbors may go away on vacation. Many people are willing to pay someone to water houseplants and gather their mail while they’re away. Thus house sitting is an excellent service to advertise.

Don’t forget working as a summer fun counselor, a golf caddy, newspaper deliverer, or housecleaner. Depending on where you live, you could even help out on farms during busy times.

For more information on job searching and developing your own business, scroll down to the links below. Check out the Getting Paid, Legal Stuff, and Be Smart sections of this article too. They contain information that applies to kids of all ages.

I’m over 14 and I want a job!
In Hawaii, you can legally work at the age of 14. If you are 14 or 15, you will need a to obtain a Certificate of Employment from the Hawaii State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations. If you are 16-17, you will also need to obtain a “work permit.” Information on how to obtain these certificates are at This means you can apply for and work at places such as fast food restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and amusement and water parks. Many of these employers need additional help in the summer, since more kids are off from school and people take more vacations.

student with an ice cream coneYou aren’t limited to working at these types of businesses. If you haven’t already done so, read the advice for the younger crowd. The activities in that section are great opportunities for older teenagers as well. By following your interests, you’re automatically more driven to find meaningful work. So if you think you’d like to be a landscape architect one day, perhaps starting your own yard work business is better than scooping ice cream at the mall.

The best thing to remember is to apply early. Don’t wait until late May to write a resume or hunt for job applications. Early spring is not too early to start asking about jobs. Even if employers aren’t looking yet, getting them familiar with your friendly face and professional attitude is a very good thing!

student shaking hands with an employerAlso, use your contacts! You’d be surprised by how easily jobs can come your way with some networking. Ask the folks whose lawn you mowed or whose kids you cared for when you were too young for other work. Do they know of anyone who needs reliable help? Brainstorm a list of people who could help you – teachers, friends’ parents, local business owners you’ve come in contact with over the years. Send a brief, professional e-mail, or better yet, call those who might have information. Stopping by during work hours to ask in person is a bold, yet often effective, tactic. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn and accomplish with just a bit of initiative. For more information on networking, go to the Where to Look for Jobs section in Job Search Aids for a list of job leads and job search agencies.

Regardless, the best way to learn about applying for a job is by visiting these sites listed below. But before you start clicking away, it’s a good idea to first consider what’s on your Facebook and MySpace pages, if you have them. Many employers like to research potential employees by visiting these sites. Make sure your page contains only information you don’t mind others seeing, including pictures and comments left by some of your friends. Now that you’re hoping to find work, you need to start carrying yourself – even in the virtual world – more professionally. Don’t forget to check your e-mail address, too. If yours is something like “” you may want to change it to “”

Getting paid and paying taxes
Most teens get paid the minimum wage on their first jobs. Right now, the minimum wage is in Hawaii is $7.25 per hour.

If you’re house sitting, doing yard work, or babysitting you may be paid less than the minimum wage. This is most likely to happen if you work for a neighbor and not a business. Remember, getting experience is important and can lead to higher pay in the future. Just be sure to talk about your wages with your employer before you agree to take the job.

student writingIt’s your first day on the job at the hot dog stand in the mall, and you’re ready to start. But first you have to fill out some paperwork. You probably have never seen a W-4 form before. Relax, it’s not that complicated, although it looks like it. This form tells your employer how much federal income tax to withhold from your wages. You might want to preview a W-4 and talk it over with an adult before you have to fill it out. You can view one at

You’ve done your work, you know your hourly wage, and you’ve done the math. You know what amount should be on your paycheck. Chances are, a chunk is missing. Well, remember that W-4 form? Filling out that form explains why some of your hard-earned cash is gone: taxes. Yes, even teenagers have to pay taxes. Depending on the amount of money you earn that year, you may get your tax money back. But if you earn over a certain amount, you’ll have to file a tax return. Welcome to the adult world!

Not everyone who has a job is required to file a tax return. You need to file if:

  • You earn $5,150 or more in wages.
  • You earn $400 or more from self-employment activities.

The IRS has a site just for students about taxes. Check it out at

Legal stuff
student opening a brief caseOnce you find a job, you may be required to get a work permit. In Hawaii, this applies to students under age 18. The goal of the permit is to let employers know you’re old enough to work. Visit to learn more about work permits.

How many hours can you work during the summer? Can you work as many hours during the school year? How many hours can you work a day? Can you work at night? It all depends on how old you are In general, you can work 40 hours a week during the summer and 18 hours a week during the school year. Most teens are limited to working eight hours per day and not working between 7 pm and 7 am.

There also are rules about the type of work that can be done by people under age 18. If you’re young, you can’t operate certain types of power equipment or do other tasks that might harm your health. You can find a complete list of federal rules at You can find Hawaii’s rules at
student looking for a jobBe smart
If you get a job at someone’s house, always tell your parents where you are going to be. Even better, have a parent meet the person you’re going to work for.

There are a lot of job boards on the internet where teenagers can search for jobs. Use caution when visiting these sites because you have to provide your personal information. Many of the sites are businesses that are there just to help you. But some may collect data about you and sell it to marketers (that’s how you get those unexpected calls at night or surprise catalogs in the mail). Check out each site’s privacy policy before you type in your name, e-mail address, and phone number. Better yet, have a parent check out these sites with you.

student looking through binocularsLocating your first job:
Check out the Job Search Aids module of Career Kokua for information about filling out applications, writing resumes, and sources of job leads.

Quick overview of creating your own business:

Links and resources for teen job hunters:

Learn about camp jobs:
student searching with a flashlightWhere you can find a summer job:
Career internship and summer job listings with application hints and videos:

Job listings and tips for researching potential employers:

Summer adventure and international jobs:

Seasonal job listings plus blogs, message boards, and “A Day in the Life” profiles:

Ideas for starting your own business over the summer:

Summer jobs and internships with government agencies:

Summer jobs, internships and fieldwork. Also provides career development and job search help for college graduates:

Seasonal or year-round jobs working for employers who can offer unique opportunities to travel the world, have fun, while earning money:

What your parents should know about summer jobs:
A parents’ guide to teens’ summer work with lots of good information:

Tips for teaching teens about saving and money management:

Great site for safety on your summer job:

Where to look for summer jobs in Hawaii:
student with a paper airplaneUse this link to search for Hawaii jobs and employment information:

A local company dedicated to serving kamaainas, both here and abroad, with an online job board:

Honolulu Star Advertiser Classified Ads:

The City & County of Honolulu’s Department of Human Resources Employment and Personnel Services Division:

Oahu WorkLinks:

Kauai’s One-Stop Center which provides free information about job vacancies, job search assistance, skill assessment, training, placement, and retention services:

WorkSource Maui:
2064 Wells St., #108
Wailuku, HI 96793
Phone: 984-2091
Fax: 984-2090

Big Island Workplace Connection:

Learn about the employment and training services provided by Hawaii’s Workforce Development Division. You can also get information about the One-Stop Service Centers:

Information about job opportunities within Hawaii state government, employee benefits, training, and other information:

An online search agent which scans 30,000 federal government jobs daily in Hawaii and across the U.S. Matches are delivered free via e-mail. Additional services for fee:

Job openings for the MWR facilities on the island of Oahu, Hawaii including golf courses, clubs, bowling lanes, hobby shops, craft shops, automotive shops, lodging facilities, day care, youth programs, food service, U.S. Marine Corps Exchanges, etc. Apply online for NAF jobs at the various military installations in Hawaii:

A web site that connects Hawaii’s technology companies with qualified job seekers. is a free service to both jobseekers and employers interested in finding or filling technology positions located in Hawaii:

County of Hawaii jobs:

County of Kauai jobs:

County of Maui jobs:
student placing a flag on the globeOther resources for job hunting on the World Wide Web:
Information targeted for entry level jobs and recent college graduates. It also provides tips on preparing for a job search, interviewing, and resumes along with a job search engine:

A federal job announcement and search web site. A program of the U S Department of Commerce which serves as an online locator service for information disseminated by the Federal Government:

A meta-list of on-line job-search resources and services for job seekers and employers/recruiters:

Job interview questions and answers and interview tips:

A service to help to business people, job seekers and college students to develop resumes and cover letters. Users can view edited resumes used successfully by job applicants in hundreds of different industries, create a free web page resume, view sample cover letters, and read a guide to writing the perfect resume or employment letter. Note: Fees for this service may cost about $100. The fee depends on the level of the resume (basic or premium) and whether the user also wants a cover letter:

Contributed by DNIR and Career Kokua