Short order cook. Monogrammed bracelet maker. Candy store operator. Homemade fudge shop cashier. Lifeguard. Beach badge checker. Busgirl. Entrée runner. Waitress.

Those were just a few of my summer “titles” growing up at the Jersey shore. No matter how silly the title or insignificant the job, I cherished them all the same. Every year I became obsessed with finding the coolest, most fun, best paying job a person my age could have. While my “careers” may have been short-lived, the lessons learned have stayed with me for years.

If you have a tween or teen looking for that perfect summer gig – or if your child just landed his dream summer stint – this post is for you. We’ve had a few readers ask for tips on finding summer jobs for teens and tweens. Where do you look? When do you start looking? Who is hiring? What are the best summer jobs for kids? What kinds of jobs should kids avoid? If you can help answer these questions, please leave a comment below.

I truly believe summer is the best time of year for a kid to experience the responsibilities of a job. There’s rarely anything else competing for their attention – like school work, sports or extracurricular activities – only lots of time that could otherwise turn into boredom.

I’ve held lots of different summer jobs. And because I lived in a vacation town in the summers, there were lots of different opportunities. I once had a job where I could ride my bike barefoot to and from work and spend the entire day on the beach – all while getting paid by the hour. Here in the Triad, I know those types of jobs aren’t readily available, but with a little creativity, kids might be surprised with what they find. You know the adage, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, it can happen for kids with summer jobs too!

For me, that happened when I landed a job as a summer waitress. (To the left is a picture of The Boat House restaurant on Long Beach Island, NJ, where I spent many, many hours and made tons and tons of fantastic memories.) I absolutely loved this job – a position I held every summer through high school and college. Yes, it could be downright dirty. Yes, I had my share of customers who made me cry. But unbeknownst to me at the time, waiting tables became an awesome lesson in ownership. I owned my own tables. I owned my customers. I owned my bills and tips. I owned my own set of problems, complications, mistakes and headaches – and I loved it all.

Additionally, I learned valuable skills and lessons in customer service, teamwork, prioritization, sweat equity, presentation, crisis management, and how to calculate tips in a jiffy. Plus, I learned how to pair certain foods with certain wines (a skill that definitely comes in handy today), as well as how to appreciate the behind-the-scenes madness every waiter knows first-hand (therefore please give your waiter the benefit of the doubt before you give a paltry tip!).

It was a job where I was surrounded by kids my own age, and a place where we all became fast friends. It was a job that was incredibly hard to land because all the kids returned year after year, which made it all the more fun to return to summer after summer. And it was a job that paid the best among kids my age, yet we definitely worked for those dollars.

Who would have thought all that could come from a short-lived stint in food service? When my kids are old enough to be “hired” for the summer, I hope they’re fortunate to find jobs, like I did, that not only forge memories and friendships, but also strong foundations for dealing with everyday life lessons.

So what are the coolest, most fun, best paying summer jobs these days? Where and when should kids look for jobs? Which jobs, in your opinion as a parent, do you recommend for your kids? And parents, what were your favorite summertime jobs, and why? Leave your comment below!