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Young adults get serious about summer jobs
More students spending free summer hours with thoughts toward future careers.

Courier News -

August 15, 2005


Lifeguard Dan Salvatore, 19, has two other jobs besides lifeguarding during the summer so that he has enough spending money. Though he has no career plans directly related to his job, he says he benefits from having learned first-aid skills. "It's important because you can use that anywhere, in any job," he says.

Gannett New Jersey
Shanea Foster's interest in radiology started with a broken ankle at age 8 and a penchant for pulling apart her Barbie dolls and popping the plastic pieces back into place.

So working in the Radiology Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick this summer, instead of sitting poolside or shopping, seemed a perfect fit for the 17-year-old worker.

"I know I want to do something in the medical field, and I know this job will help me with that," said Foster of New Brunswick, who has shadowed a radiology technician and learned how to examine X-rays and blood work.

Like many of the Middlesex County teenagers and young adults who snagged summer jobs, Foster's reasons for holding down a 9-to-5 job go beyond having a few extra bucks for a movie or iPod.

The purpose of working a summer job is shifting, according to experts, who say a growing number of teens and young adults use their positions to prepare for the future.

"Teens want jobs that have a little bit more substance than just flipping burgers," said Renee Ward, founder of, a job search Web site for teenagers. "They want to have a work experience that will benefit them or provide a way to network."

Those work experiences are no longer limited to part-time paying positions. Teens and young adults, especially those unable to find a summer job, are instead working as volunteers or unpaid interns.

"I have been unsuccessfully looking for a part-time job because college grads have been taking all of the jobs," said Lisa Chen, 17, from North Brunswick.
And she's not alone. The teen employment rate, predicted as 36.7 percent this summer, has reached an all-time low, according to a recent report by the Center for Labor Market Studies of Northeastern University.

Like others who were turned away from the work force, Chen and 15-year-old Iswarya Babu of Edison began volunteering. Both help with American Red Cross blood drives, an experience they can add to their college applications.

"College is so competitive," said Chen, a rising senior at North Brunswick Township High School. "Even though I feel like I am on the same plane with everyone else, volunteering does help a little bit because it shows colleges that I am not a bum."

Ana Cruz, 18, said she is proud of her paying gig at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. She and Foster are participating in a summer work program offered to students at the New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School.

"I was helping people, and I saw how a person can make such a big impact on a patient," said Cruz, who worked with the hospital's cardiac unit, checking charts and shadowing nurses. "It made me more sure that I want to go into nursing. It's like a head start of what to expect."

Similarly, 19-year-old Lindsay Ritter of Sayreville said she's learning what to expect in the classroom. A dance instructor at the Dance Stop in Parlin, she's been teaching young children tap and ballet, while they've been teaching her patience and perseverance.

"It's a great place to learn," said Ritter, a Rutgers University sophomore who's considering a career in elementary education. "This is teaching me how to deal with kids."

Even teens and young adults such as Lindsay Leddy, 16, and Dan Salvatore, 19, who have no plans to pursue a career related to their summer jobs said they benefit from working. Summer jobs often teach youngsters responsibility, resourcefulness, reliability and self-motivation, Ward said.
Leddy and Salvatore, both lifeguards at Bowtie Pool in Port Reading, said knowing how to administer first aid will always come in handy.

"It's important because you can use that anywhere, in any job," said Salvatore, a film major at William Patterson University who also worked two other part-time jobs this summer to cover his tuition. "You'll always be able to help people."

Leddy, a rising junior at Woodbridge High School, added she hopes to work in a medical research or forensics lab one day. Being a lifeguard, she said, taught her how to be attentive, work with others and manage her time.
Don't be fooled, though, Ward warned. Gaining experience and learning life skills are all good, but most youngsters, like their parents before them, still enjoy having wads of dollar bills tucked in their wallets.

"Money is still important to them, and it has a greater significance when they earn it," she said. "Making money is one of the biggest reasons teens want summer jobs, but now it's just not the only reason."

from the Courier News website