Your Time to Shine

Tips for teens looking for a summer job.

“You’re hired.” These two words can make a teen’s pulse quicken even more than a seat next to a math class cutie. And as summer vacation approaches, many young people will hope to hear these words as they vie for seasonal, part-time work. The city of Edina is a large seasonal employer of youth during the summer months. City supervisors for local parks and facilities like the Aquatic Center, Centennial Lakes and Braemar Golf Course recruit, train, supervise and evaluate dozens of summer employees. They also work hard to teach leadership skills that will help young people succeed in the future. But getting a job, especially in a tough economy, requires preparation and confidence. These tips from three local Edina supervisors and one former Edina employee can help prepare teens who are in the job hunt for the very first time.

Applying for the job:

Research where you want to work and then get experience in that field.

So you like kids. Unfortunately, that is not enough to get you a coveted job at Edinborough Park or the Aquatic Center. But having some volunteer experience on your resume might. Kristin Aarsvold, recreation supervisor for the city of Edina, says, “When I ask people why they want to work for the park system and be a playground leader, it’s not enough for applicants to say, ‘Because they like kids.’ ” Aarsvold oversees 9 different parks and hires around 50 seasonal playground and site leaders. “Volunteer experience weighs just as heavily as paid experience,” says Aarsvold. “If you’ve spent time working at church Bible camp, that’s great. Tell me about that.”

Create a presentable resume.

Showcase your experience in a typed resume without spelling errors. Laura Knollmaier, Centennial Lakes Park assistant manager, hires for nearly 25 positions each summer. “It’s the little things that stand out,” she says. “When I’m looking at resumes from two high school seniors who both have a great GPA and both play soccer, but I only have one open position, a small error on a resume could make the decision for me.” Knollmaier also suggests having someone read over your resume before submitting it.

The morning-of, pump yourself up.

Blast Avicii on your iPod. Meditate. Dance. Do whatever it takes to pump yourself up and feel good before an interview. “You’re there to sell yourself. You only get one chance to make a good impression,” Aarsvold says. “If you have to stand in front of the mirror in the morning and talk yourself up, do it.”

Acing the interview:

Show your personality.

Natalie Ipekci, a former playground leader for Edina and now a project manager for PDR clinics, says, “Bring your A-game to the interview. Don’t be afraid to let your true self shine through.” Aarsvold says, “It’s OK to be nervous, but try not to let that stop you from answering interview questions mindfully. It’s OK to take a second and think about your response.”

Do your homework.

Patty McGrath, manager at Edinborough Park and Edina Aquatic Center, hires about 85 staff members during the summer to fill jobs in the admissions office, concessions stand, and guest services, as well as lifeguarding positions. She says, “I like when applicants have been to the park before the interview and can reference their own experience.” McGrath wants to feel that prospective employees are interested enough to check things out, look at a schedule and be familiar with the facility.

Talk yourself up.

“Don’t be afraid to talk up your skills,” says Ipekci. “If you don’t share how great you are, no one else will.” The interview can also be a great opportunity to think outside the box and showcase your ideas. Aarsvold says, “We try to ask situational questions like, ‘What if it rains on the day of your planned outdoor activity?’ You can tell if these kids have something in their toolbox that they can reference.”

Make a good impression.

“Don’t chew gum or wear too much makeup,” says Knollmaier. “When you’re coming in for a job interview, make yourself look professional.” Ipekci notes the importance of finding a connection with your interviewer. Have some personality and search for common ground to connect with the hiring manager.

Your time to shine:

Demonstrate responsibility.

On the job, McGrath looks for employees to show responsibility. It’s important to always show up on time, follow directions and have a good attitude. “Working at the Aquatic Center is very serious,” McGrath says. “It’s fun, but there’s a high volume of traffic, and whenever you’re dealing with water, you need to be extremely cautious.”

Be assertive.

McGrath stresses the importance of assertiveness to her employees. Employees need to show confidence when helping guests and answering questions. “Some kids come to the job with assertiveness instilled in them already,” McGrath says. “For others, we help mentor them so they feel more comfortable taking initiative.”


Communication is key for any organization to run smoothly, so supervisors like McGrath and Aarsvold encourage employees to bring their ideas to the table. “If our employees have an idea, they should tell us. We want to know what they think,” McGrath says. Aarsvold agrees. “We really want to let our playground leaders do the majority of the program planning at their parks. We love when they come up with their own ideas,” she says.

Aarsvold, Knollmaier and McGrath, along with most all supervisors of young workers, want to see their employees succeed. “These are our future leaders,” Knollmaier says. “We want them do go on and do great things. So we’re here to help them.” Aarsvold says, “In order to attract quality applicants, we need to give our employees a good experience. Just like the employees we hire, we try to figure out ways to go above and beyond.”