Paying for College

Summer Job Success

Last time, I discussed some ideas for the kinds of summer jobs you may care to consider. This time, I'll discuss how to improve your chances to get one of those summer jobs. I reference once again an informative article that explains five ways to improve your odds for landing that job. After all, as I keep saying about the job market, things are tough out there. The better prepared you are, the better your chances are to impress that person who will be making the decision about who will and who won't be getting the job you're after.

Summer jobs aren't like "career" jobs. They serve a definite purpose, though. That purpose is to staff up for (usually) seasonable work related to the warmer months, such as life-guarding, outside yard care, and other warm-days tasks. Frequently, summer jobs run from Memorial Day through Labor Day. If you're college-bound, that spread of months could prove to be a problem if your school (high school or college) doesn't finish before Memorial Day and starts before Labor Day. However, many employers are somewhat flexible about start and end dates, so you may be able to negotiate a reasonable work term.

So, here are David Quilty's helpful tips on how to boost your summer job search odds:

5 Tips to Land a Summer Job

by David Quilty

Waiting until a week before school lets out to find yourself a summer job isn't the best idea to secure a good position. Beat everyone else to the punch by looking for summer employment months before summer arrives. That way, you will be sure you can start making money as soon as possible.

Starting your job search early isn't the only thing you can do to increase your chances, so here are a few more tips:

1. Ask Around

Friends, neighbors, and other parents are going to be your most valuable means of finding gainful employment during the summer. They know you, you know them, and they may have an inside track to a position you otherwise wouldn't have had access to.

Also, consider asking your favorite teachers and your school guidance counselor for help, and check the bulletin board at your local community center for job listings.

2. Prepare References

Compile a list of names and phone numbers of people who can vouch for you, either personally or professionally. You may be asked to provide a few references to a potential employer. References are usually provided in the form of a letter of recommendation, and you should get them from previous employers, teachers, or anywhere you may have volunteered in the past.

3. Dress Appropriately for Interviews

You want to be taken seriously, so dress appropriately for the job for which you are applying. Be on time (a few minutes early to be safe), and bring with you any information you think an employer may want to see, such as your reference letters and a resume.

4. Find Specialized Job Search Sites

Check out websites such as Snagajob and GrooveJob, which specialize in jobs for teens and high school students. You can search for jobs by location, interest, age range, and employer, and the sites offer advice on writing cover letters and resumes, interview tips, and how to dress for success.

5. Market Yourself

If you wish to be self-employed for the summer, you have to understand how to let people know who you are, why they should hire you, and when you are available for work. This requires marketing yourself to your family, friends, neighbors, and community.

Make business cards you can hand out, along with flyers you can go door-to-door with or pin to bulletin boards in local coffee shops and community centers. Use a word processing software template to make your own marketing materials.

Final Word

Working during summer break has long been a rite of passage for high school students. While many students hold part-time jobs during the school year, not everyone can do so. When summer rolls around, focus in on your interests and life goals and try to find a job that matches closely with those activities. That way, you still have time for summer fun while also earning income. Don't let those few months go by without taking full advantage of your time off from school.


That's solid advice. Plus, if you're looking for some comments from in-the-trenches students and parents, check out this discussion thread from College Confidential. You'll find cautionary tales like this . . .

I remember a couple of summers ago I applied to over thirty places and didn't hear back from a single one. It was hard because I thought I was really well qualified as far as high school students go. I had much better luck in later years getting jobs through connections and word of mouth. It's brutal out there right now, especially for teens with little or no work experience.

. . . and more hopeful ones like this . . .

Last year S went to pretty much every business nearby which might hire students in the summer and asked if they were hiring, whether they had signs out or not. Many of them let him fill out applications. A month later he got a call and started washing dishes part time at a restaurant. He worked there all year, since he is in school locally.

So, good luck this summer. Don't be easily frustrated.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.