Summer is just around the corner, and the vast majority of young people will find themselves out of school with months of time to fill before they have to once again set foot in a classroom. In previous decades, most would get jobs or help out around the house, but the job market—particularly for entry-level gigs—has dried up and young people are finding it harder to land jobs that were once reserved for teens.
Studies have found that traditional teen employment (think retail and ice cream shops) has dipped by as much as 40%, reports US News & World Report, in the past decade. Not that today's teens would covet such opportunities anyway: they have an eye toward their futures, and rather than taking any job just to earn some spending cash, they are looking for work that will be a stepping stone to their eventual careers.
We have found that 62% of 13- to 17-year-olds would rather spend part of their free time being productive or creative instead of just hanging out, and 47% specifically do so because they believe it's good for their prospective careers or college. They seek this same sense of purpose in the work they take on in the summer months—and throughout the year. This generation of teens isn't waiting for the job market to improve, but instead is creating their own jobs with the help of social media channels and new payment systems. The money they get is nice, but the real value they derive is the experience they gain.
Teens are leveraging their technical skills and ingenuity to come up with new ways to spend their summer vacations. They'll earn extra cash by contributing to a YouTube channel, reselling items they no longer use for a profit, or posting their creations for sale on Instagram and accepting Venmo payments. Even if their efforts don't pay off financially, such activities can pay dividends down the road.
With their unprecedented access to the "adult" world, teens are also getting a jumpstart on real careers. In their spare time, they are developing interests and experience in fields once reserved for seasoned professionals. As a result, they aren't too shy to ask for their dream jobs and internships because they just might get them if they can demonstrate their aptitude. They've read stories of young people emailing CEOs and college professors begging for a place on their teams and getting their wish. Teens covet such positions, even if they're stuck doing menial work, because they know they are invaluable to giving them a head start on their grown-up lives, whether that be as a scientist, a makeup artist, or a financial trader.
Teens demand to be recognized as the grown-ups they are fast becoming, and it's critical for brands to treat them in a respectful manner that acknowledges their maturity. They see through marketing ploys and don't like companies that merely want to sell to them. Instead, they want brands' help as they progress in life and work to gain new skills that they'll need when they enter the adult world.
From sponsoring contests to establishing a summer workshop program to hiring a lucky fan, brands can be highly influential in teens' seasonal prospects and dreams for the years ahead. And for their young fans, there is nothing as rewarding as recognition of their efforts and work from the brands they love. It shows them that companies value the same things they do and confirms their connections with brands that understand the importance they place on preparing for their futures.