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Long Island bosses share advice to help teens land a summer job

Justin Taveras, 16, of Copiague, says he sent

Justin Taveras, 16, of Copiague, says he sent Adventureland's Paul Gentile, director of operations, a follow-up email a couple of days after he put in his online application -- and he got the job. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Jonathan Seeback, 17, of Massapequa Park, sums up the frustration of many Long Island teens when it comes to seeking a summer job: “It’s a pain in the neck," Seeback says. "So many people competing for jobs.”

How can teens ensure they’re the ones to get the gig? Newsday talked to hiring managers and kids who have succeeded. Here are their tips:

1. Rule No. 1, says Ed Parry, director of LuHi Summer Camps in Brookville, which employs hundreds of counselors: Call for application information yourself. “That first initial contact is the first step in the interview process,” Parry says. If mom or dad call, the student has already failed, he says.

2. If submitting an online application, attach a resume even if it’s not requested. Apply early, says Gamini Perera, director of marketing for Splish Splash in Calverton. “Typically, it’s first come, first served,” Perera says. As Splish Splash gets applications, they begin interviewing until their scores of lifeguard, food service and other positions are filled.

3. If you hear nothing after an online application, follow up. “If you haven’t heard back in a week, don’t be afraid to reach out by phone,” Perera says. Ask to talk to the person in charge of hiring. Justin Taveras, 16, of Copiague, says he sent Adventureland’s Paul Gentile, director of operations, a follow-up email a couple of days after he put in his online application. Gentile, who hires about 600 students to operate rides and man food stands, gift shops and games, says he values that kind of initiative. He says he's also impressed by students who stop by the park in Farmingdale. “I can take a minute out of the day to say hello to a kid trying to get a job,” Gentile says. “If they take time out of their day to come to the park, that does show they’re trying to separate themselves from the pack.”

4. Prepare before an interview. Peruse the company’s website, scan the specific job descriptions and visit the venue’s social media, Perera advises. At the interview, ask questions pertinent to the venue and job. Taveras, a ride operator at Adventureland, says he read Adventureland’s online handbook before his in-person interview. Practice answering possible questions from the interviewer with a parent or other adult. 

5. Be well-groomed. “Comb your hair, brush your teeth,” Gentile says. Says Perera: “Dress to impress.” He recommends business professional — not necessarily a tie for boys, but a polo or button-down shirt; no ripped jeans or sleeveless shirts for girls or boys. And arrive on time. If you can’t get to an interview on time, how can the employer trust you'll get to work on time?

6. Use positive body language. “A handshake means a lot. A firm handshake,” Gentile says. He is impressed when an applicant extends his or her hand first. “It’s important to make eye contact,” Perera adds. Try not to be nervous, advises Jessica Sander, 18, of Massapequa Park, who has worked at the Seaford Public Library since she was 16: “I just told myself if I get the job, that’s great, but if not, it’s not the end of the world.”

7. “Be energetic and enthusiastic in your answers,” Gentile says. Offer more than one-word answers. Bryanna Sheppard, 16, of West Babylon, who works in Adventureland’s sweet shop and retail shops, says that during her interview she was asked whether she likes kids. Instead of just answering “Yes,” she says she explained how she spends a lot of time with her younger sisters, ages 9 and 13. Says Perera: “Take the time to think about what the question is that you’ve been asked and answer back with some substance.”

8. Be ready with references. “It can’t be relatives,” Parry says. For younger kids, it can be baby-sitting clients, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, or an adult from a church or synagogue.

9. Send a thank-you email to the interviewer after the interview.

10. If you’re 14 or 15, try not to despair. It’s tough to get some jobs — Adventureland and Splish Splash, for instance, hire very few people younger than 16. Town summer recreation programs can be a good place for younger teens to start getting work experience. In Massapequa, for instance, kids in the district who are entering ninth grade spend the first summer volunteering, but the next summer may be hired as paid staff, says Fran Mauceri, assistant coordinator of Massapequa Summer Recreation. Even if they don’t want to return for a second summer, they’ll have spent a season proving they can be a good employee when they apply for higher-paying jobs. That’s the strategy Seeback took, working at Massapequa Summer Recreation for the past two summers; he earned about $1,000 last summer working five weeks. He’s hoping that experience will land him a more lucrative summer job this year.

How to get working papers

Students in New York State need working papers to be employed. They apply for working papers through their schools. They need proof of a physical within the past year and the signature of a parent or guardian. Students 14 and 15 get a blue card with restrictions on the number of hours and times of day they can work; at 16, students must reapply for a green card, which expands the hours until they hit 18.

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