You’ve spent hours on your résumé, filled out applications, talked with businesses, went in for interviews and still your cell phone sits quietly on your desk. Sound familiar?
Getting a summer job in mid-Michigan this year seems about as likely as getting struck by lightning, and for young adults in particular, you might actually have a better shot at the latter. The reason is simple: Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 6.9 percent, which means summer jobs will be scarce for the fifth year in a row, according to state unemployment statistics.
“It’s hard because at first I tried to get a job that would be applicable toward my major,” criminal justice senior Tesla Hughes said. “But at this point I’ll be lucky to find any job at all.”
Like Hughes, advertising sophomore Jason Vadney has applied to various locations in East Lansing with no luck.“I applied everywhere I could think of and haven’t heard back,” Vadney said. “It’s frustrating because it’s almost summer and now I guess I just have to wait it out.”
This summer thousands of young people are battling for jobs not only against each other, but also against unemployed adults. For example, Capital Area Michigan Works recently cancelled its teen job fair because there were not enough jobs. “It’s really hard this year, especially in East Lansing,” education sophomore Carly Zenk said. “You have to set yourself apart from the thousands of other applicants and really be persistent.”
Zenk applied to a dozen other places before being hired at Tanning & Co. “I had a friend who worked there and I called the manager a few times a week to force her to remember me,” Zenk said. “Getting acquainted with the person in charge is crucial, because if a job does open up, you are usually first on the list.”
Some students don’t want to deal with the application process and instead babysit or do yard work – things that don’t involve the hassle of the application process. No preference freshman Danielle Williams plans on doing just that when she goes home to Ontario. Even though she will be in East Lansing for part of the summer, Williams has given up on finding a job in Michigan. “I applied to a bunch of places in the spring and got no response,” she said. “I wish I could have gotten a job, but at least I can always go home and babysit without worrying about interviews and résumés.”
Accounting junior Lindsay Rodin agrees. Rodin has had a summer job lifeguarding and coaching at the same swimming pool for three summers. “I like being able to jump right back into it when I get home and not stress out like some of my friends about where to work,” Rodin said. “It’d be nice to stay up in East Lansing this summer, but having a guaranteed job is something you can’t get around here.”
Even for those fortunate enough to be hired locally this summer, there are disadvantages to the masses of unemployed people. “My manager told me that they’re going to be really strict on the current employees because of the enormous interest they receive for positions,” human biology sophomore Amber Schroeder said.
Schroeder, who recently started working at Dick’s Sporting Goods, knows the number of unemployed young adults makes keeping her job even harder. Still, she realizes she is one of the lucky ones. “A lot of my friends are still scrambling around trying to find a job,” she said. “I went jobless all last summer, and it is not something I want to do again.”
But don’t despair if you still don’t have a summer job. Many summer-specific locations are forced to hire during warm weather. Try an ice cream parlor, a summer camp or a pool lifeguard. “We hire nearly a full staff every summer,” IM West director Joel Eddy said.
Many restaurants with outdoor seating hire extra servers to deal with the increased crowds. Education sophomore Amber Rodin capitalized on that thought by applying to local restaurants and bars. She was hired for the summer by Harpers Restaurant and Brewery. “It’s all about being in the right place at the right time,” Rodin said.
Unfortunately, that will be the fate for thousands in East Lansing and the mid-Michigan area this summer. “It’s a frustrating market and jobs are being gobbled up every second,” Schroeder said. Don’t want it to be you? Stop sitting around, grab your phone and start calling.

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