Student Job Search Survival Guide

School’s not even out, but the university students are back in town, and summer jobs are being filled faster than you can pick out your interview ensemble. Check out our tips and get out there so you can finally get the summer job of your dreams.

Picking Your Market

If you love reading, you’ll probably like working at the library. But if you faint at the sight of blood, you shouldn’t apply at a blood-donor clinic. A job you enjoy will launch you into the working world with a positive attitude. But be realistic. Your first job may not be in the field of your choice. Most summer jobs are in the retail, accommodation, and food services industries. From 1997 to 2004, employment among teens grew by 192,000, with half of this growth (97,000) in retail trade, according to a Statistics Canada report.  

Make sure to keep an open mind. Since you probably don’t have to pay the rent or foot the grocery bill, you can explore different types of work before committing to an expensive education. And even the most unlikely summer job like working on a farm may lead to a career, you just never know.

Checking the Paperwork

To get a jump on the university students, polish your résumé and interview skills before hitting the streets in April. If you wait until June most of the hottest jobs will be taken, and you’ll be too busy stressing over finals to prepare for interviews.

If you don’t feel confident about your résumé, high schools, job centres and the Internet can help.

Brainstorm for references. Teachers or coaches might provide a letter, or you can ask your baby-sitting clients, minister or a family friend.

Don’t forget to apply for a social insurance number, which takes about six weeks by mail from Human Resources Development Canada.

Rehearsing for the Interview

Get a friend, or a family member to pretend that they’re an employer asking questions. If your write down and rehearse the answers, you’ll feel more confident. Some schools and job centres will arrange practice interviews with counselors.

Leave No Stone Unturned

Use your school and its counselors. The more people you’ve got on your side, the better your chances.

Employment agencies can tell you about market conditions: Is tourism big in your area or is manufacturing?

To be on the ball make sure to read newspaper and internet want ads, but be wary of those that seem too good to be true: "Work from home. Earn $50,000 a year. No experience necessary." Also, make sure you follow the directions: Respect application deadlines, and if the company doesn’t want calls, don’t phone. But don’t be put off by a minimum-experience requirement; many people will sell themselves short, downgrading volunteer experience or extracurricular activities. If you’re really into the job just go for it!

Pound the Pavement

Look for help wanted signs and approach businesses that appeal to you, even if there are no vacancies. Don’t deliver résumés everywhere, then simply wait for offers. The student who keeps returning is the one who’ll spring to mind when there’s an opening, yet employers report that very few do return. Narrow the search to five or ten likely places, then be assertive. You’ll see: persistence pays off.

Be Your Own Boss

Consider self-employment if you think you’ve got the initiative. Dedicated teens get independent work mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for working couples and elderly widows in their neighbourhoods. Others make and sell jewelry or operate fast-food stands at festivals.

Chase Down Connections

Don’t overlook the hidden job market. Experts agree that most jobs aren’t advertised. Network with teammates, friends and relatives, and don’t hesitate to ask your parents for help.

Don’t Get Down

If your first batch of applications doesn’t get the response you expected don’t get upset. Summer jobs can be hard to find, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. Don’t spend your summer sulking if something doesn’t come your way. Instead try volunteering in a field you’re into, and spend the summer developing skills that will appeal to future employers, and enjoying the sunshine. After all, you’re only young once.