When we were growing up, summer jobs were a slam dunk. Anyone could get one. Can you spell your name? Tie your own shoes? Great, you’re hired. Not anymore. Traditional summer jobs like ice cream scooper or burger flipper are now being snapped up by unemployed adults who can’t find anything better. The national unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds just reached 26.4 percent, up 3 percent from a year ago, according to new labor stats. And it’s not like kids aren’t looking for work. After all they have massive student loans to contend with — probably for the rest of their lives. One retailer quoted in this article said she’s getting 30 applicants a week, mostly from teenagers. Suddenly, landing a job at McDonald’s is just as hard as getting into Harvard. Don’t believe us? Bob Meisenheimer, owner of a McDonald’s franchise in Fort Myers, Fla., says so many kids are coming around looking for a job that he only considers those who do volunteer work and participate in after-school programs. Seriously, you’ve got to be the captain of the debate team and put in 20 hours a week at your local hospital before you can even get a McJob.
Piece of the pie. One kid who did manage to beat the odds and land a Mcjob is Natasha Sheppard. She started off as a pizza delivery driver at Domino’s when she was 17, and worked her way up to manager. Today, at the still tender age of 23, she is the proud owner of her own Domino’s franchise. “I never thought I would be lucky enough to make pizzas for a living,” says Sheppard. “I love what I’m doing.” She admits that owing a pizza franchise was never her career goal. She started working at Domino’s because, like most kids, she needed money to pay for college. She soon realized that her part-time job was actually the best education she ever got.
Growing up is the pits. The economy is wreaking havoc on the lives and careers of many young people. But Nick Epler is not one of them. Epler, 30, just opened his fifth Pita Pit franchise and has plans for many more. Epler says the weak economy has made it easier to open new restaurants because rent is dirt cheap. He also has a super-smart strategy: he targets college towns because enrollment shoots up in times of recession, which means more customers for him. Here’s another secret to his success: he treats people right. At some stores, Epler says, managers make more than he does. And, of course, he’s not afraid of hard work. “My attitude is that I’m young and there is no better time for me to put the time in to be successful than right now,” he says.