As we mature through our teenage years, one of our first major steps into adulthood is working that first job. “A first-time job may be awkward and an all-around rude awakening for many, but the accompanying lessons of responsibility and perseverance are absolutely vital,” says financial expert Mark Hansen, author of Success 101 for Teens . “Also, we get our first taste of earned money – how to spend it, and the value of budgeting it for larger purchases.”As we mature through our teenage years, one of our first major steps into adulthood is working that first job. “A first-time job may be awkward and an all-around rude awakening for many, but the accompanying lessons of responsibility and perseverance are absolutely vital,” says financial expert Mark Hansen, author of Success 101 for Teens . “Also, we get our first taste of earned money – how to spend it, and the value of budgeting it for larger purchases.”

But this summer continues a trend in recent years: there simply are not enough jobs to go around during this rough economy. The 2011 summer employment average – peak season for those aged 16 to 24 – was only 48.8 percent for young people, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the lowest percentage since the bureau began collecting such data, in 1948. This year, so far, the rate is virtually the same, and many young people have simply given up their job search.

This is a potentially devastating trend with long-lasting consequences,” says Hansen, a successful businessman and former Palm Beach County, Florida, school board member. “We know the negative effects experienced by adults who go without a job for long periods, but unemployment can be worse for teens. Think about idleness, an increased risk of juvenile delinquency, undeveloped or atrophied technical and social skills and, of course, a lack of money.”

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Just because there are fewer jobs, however, doesn’t mean young people are powerless to improve their situation – or should miss out on this valuable life-skills lesson. Hansen offers these alternatives for job-hunting teens:

Untapped markets are everywhere: It may be true that the once low-hanging fruit, such as fast-food positions, are being taken by adults, but a teen’s job search needn’t end there. Today’s young people have a distinct advantage over older folks – they were raised on computers, which may include knowledge of graphics software, sound and video programs and much more. These skills may be parlayed to help market events for neighbors, family members or a small business.

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