How To Get A Summer Job

Photo thanks to Cavanimages

Before I start, let me declare loud and clear: I am not an expert in this subject! This post will be an accumulation of all the wisdom and tips I’ve gained either through my own experience or by listening to others, and it certainly won’t be the be-all-and-end-all of job-hunting guides by any means. Hopefully it will contain enough information to give you an extra boost in your search for employment this summer! Behold, a few of the pointers I’ve learned.

1. Start Early


Photo thanks to Common Misconceptions

Like, Christmas Break early. I know this seems ridiculous, preposterous and otherwise unnecessary, but the safety blanket of having applied to several well-paying, prestigious, cushy jobs early on will be a comfort later. Think about big corporations and their summer programs: banks, libraries, your home town’s outdoor parks and recreation jobs, pools, home offices of big names like Tim Hortons.

Application processes for these positions start as early as December or January, with interviews and offers by April. Of the early jobs I applied for this year, I was offered one, and qualified for another, pending available spots. That’s two successful application processes (application, preliminary interviews, reference checks, placement tests, etc), based on a simple online application. Easy peasy for you!

For these types of jobs, it’s a good idea to ask around to family or friends about the various positions offered in their offices. I’ve previously applied to companies I have contacts at, and knowing people in the company can act as an “in” for outside applications. As well, they can let you know about the positions, what they entail, and help you along every step of the way.

2. Hit the Streets


Photo thanks to Anitah

Depending on your goals for summer, it’s possible that you’re looking for a basic retail job so that you can spend the rest of your summer writing your novel. I totally dig. If that’s the case (and you’re not like a handful of my friends working at large media companies or politicians’ offices) then you have it much easier. It’s not necessary to start so early! I can’t make you a guarantee, but I am very confident that if you hustle and bustle, you can land a job (I said a job, not “the best job”) within two weeks.

Start by printing a big pile of resumes. I’d say 20-30 to start. Make sure they have your updated contact information, are formatted correctly, and highlight all your best experiences and qualities up front. (More tips here). Put them in a file folder or clipboard, dress in business-casual clothes, and pick a street, mall or shopping centre!

Now, here’s the terrifying part, the part I was loathe to do, but did (and got a mega-boost of self-confidence afterwards!). You must go into each store and ask the first available employee if the store is hiring. Even if there’s no “hiring” sign! Even if the store is hoity-toity and intimidating! Even though you’re freaked out, imagining what the employees are thinking of you (probably nothing, actually). Try to drop off a resume whether or not the store is hiring, and do so with a big smile! Be prepared to be asked a few questions about your availability, experience in that type of establishment, and maybe even a few questions about the store itself. Also, be prepared to be stared down and shut down a few times, but it won’t happen as often as you might think.

A great tip is to ask the information desk at large shopping centres for a list of stores in the mall that are hiring. More often than not, they keep a compilation complete with the type of position, the requirements, and the contact information of the hiring manager. This can provide direction and purpose to your aimless wandering throughout the mall!

And whatever you do, don’t give up! It may seem fruitless and pointless, but if you continue to persist, the calls will start coming. Within two weeks, I was offered two jobs and three interviews, and I wasn’t even handing out resumes every day! I am confident that if you do, you can land a basic retail job in days.

3. Go Online


Photo thanks to Secretly Hoping

More and more large corporations are putting their application processes completely online: The Gap (+ Old Navy and Banana Republic), Starbucks, Lululemon, Cineplex Theatres, Apple, etc. I only found this out by hitting the streets and asking, but spending a few days at home filling out online applications won’t hurt either. In case you’re wondering, two of the interviews I got were due to online applications, and so was one of my job offers.

When you do applications for these companies, it will take some time. Each website requires that you make an account, upload a resume and cover letter, fill in the necessary information and so on. But try not to be deterred, because it may in fact pay off. These companies are larger, and therefore need more employees than the cute flower shop on the corner – they may be a better chance for you to get employed!

In addition to large companies, be sure also to check out job databases: Indeed is one of my favourites (and has an iPhone app to boot!), it collects job postings from pretty much every website that lists them, and compiles them based on your search requirements. Job Bank (for Canadians) is also wonderful, especially for students, since there are summer jobs with various companies specifically for students who are returning to school in the fall. You can even set Job Alert emails to hit your inbox a few times per day, full of available jobs that match your search criteria. Don’t forget to check your school’s job listings – again, they’re usually more tailored to students, and several don’t have many criteria for applicants, which is great for those without much experience.

4. Stay Open


Photo thanks to Forreese

It may be that you have your sights set on a very specific position for the summer – maybe you hope to increase your experience in a lab, a popular media company, a newspaper, a publishing house, a hospital? Perhaps you’ve zeroed in on your “ideal” job and can’t think of working anywhere else? My only tip is to try to stay open to other ideas. It may be that after 50 emails to all the professors who are doing research you’d like to help with, 0 are paying and only 2 need assistants in their lab. The newspaper is only offering part-time, unpaid internships. There are no summer positions for unskilled workers at the hospital. Well, hmph. It could be that you didn’t start early enough, or maybe it’s just not your year. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the end of the line for experience in your chosen field!

The summer is an ideal time to take on additional opportunities: is there any way you could make that part-time, unpaid internship at the newspaper work into your schedule? Maybe help out at the lab on weekends? Volunteer one morning a week at the hospital for a few hours? If you try, there are bound to be several amazing options for you to get more experience and improve your resume for the following year’s job hunt!

5. Hang In There!


Photo thanks to Caramel Tofu

Trust me, I know that job-hunting can be one of the most anxiety-ridden, soul-crushing tasks known to humankind. And I haven’t even had that much experience with it! So I can’t imagine how much scarier it must be when it’s not just a summer job. All I can say is: don’t give up, don’t get down. You will get calls back, just maybe not today. You’re not just sending out all those applications into an abyss somewhere, a few will reach the right person. Don’t ever feel that a rejection is something personal – more often than not, it’s simply because of a lack of an opening! Most of us know this intuitively, but it’s sometimes hard to remember while in the thick of the job hunt with no replies, interviews or offers. Just stay strong, switch up your tactics every few days, follow up on applications, and keep to a schedule.


What do you think?

Do you have any tips on finding a great job, summer or otherwise? Any pointers or tidbits of knowledge you’ve learned over your experiences applying for work? Any motivational words of wisdom for those still searching? I’d love to hear them!!

Best of luck on your job hunt!

Yours in job-hunting support!

3 thoughts on “How To Get A Summer Job”

  1. My tip is to network, network, network. My college was amazing at teaching this, because of our required internships. They do not find our internships for us, we have to find them. I soon learned to tell everyone that I was looking for an internship. The first I found through my aunt, the second through my mom’s best friend, and the third through my second cousin. Now that I’ve graduated, I use my lame retail job (cashier at a mom-and-pop hometown grocery store) to talk to people. So far, I’ve heard about three jobs from my customers, and I’ve only been back to work for four days! In the meantime, I’ve scored tons of tutoring gigs through networking.

    So talk to everyone you meet. Tell them you’re looking for a job and what kind of job you’re looking for. Tell family, friends, friends’ family, professors, club advisers, your neighbor down the street, etc. Now your network includes their network.

    1. Awesome tip, I love it. I think I totally underestimate how many contacts I have who are already employed and very well connected – why not take advantage of that?! I totally love your attitude towards your cashier job; so many people might be really cynical and pessimistic, but you’re taking initiative and responsibility for your situation and you’re totally going to get a better job! I love it. More people should have your attitude I think. :)

  2. Pingback: How To Get A Summer Job, Part 2 | Life In Limbo

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