Go Back Go Ahead

A fter you've worked hard all school year, it's tough to think about finding a job to raise money to do it all over again next year. Yes, it can be hard to find a decent paying summer job, much less one that's rewarding. But here's some practical information to make the search a little less painful and a lot more profitable.

Before you start job hunting, answer these questions:

  • How much do you need to earn? Are you working to save money for tuition? Expenses? A car? Or are you looking for a rewarding experience? The amount of money you need by the end of the summer will restrict your choices.

  • How mobile are you? Do you have a car? Are you willing to travel? Is a bus stop close to your house? Let potential employers know if you're limited to public transportation routes. And always factor in any transportation expenses and the time it will take you to get to and from work before you accept a job.
  • What are your skills? If you have experience in any area, from child care to computers, it's a plus. The more experience you have, the easier it is to get a job; and the more skilled you are, the hotter the job prospects, says Marty Rome, spokesperson for Kelly Services, Inc.
       If you want to try something new, think of ways your skills could transfer to another job. For example, if you've waited tables for a few years and you want an office job, tout your customer service skills and your ability to handle many tasks at once. If you've been baby-sitting for years, your skills may be valued at a corporate day care, a health club, a city summer recreation program, or a summer camp.
  • How adventurous are you? Are you a homebody or do you crave new experiences? If you want to get away for the summer but don't want to end up broke, factor in how much you'll be spending on phone bills, transportation, housing, and food.
  • Do you know anyone who can help? Connections are still a great way to land a job. Some large organizations have summer job programs that give first preference to employees' children or relatives. Also, if you know anyone who works in a field where you either have experience or that is related to your education, give the person a call or send a note of interest with your resume.

Job hunting: on foot, on phone, or on-line
If you're in college, first check with your university's student job center, which serves as a clearinghouse for job opportunities. For example, the Student Job Center at the University of Wisconsin (UW) at Madison screens a variety of job postings, says Virginia Zwickey, coordinator of the UW job center.
       Zwickey says local summer jobs are in relatively short supply, and the center has more listings for out-of-town jobs. "The best way to land a summer job is to find a year-round job that continues in the summer," Zwickey says. Rome agrees, "If students work for us during the school year, we can transfer credentials to their hometown Kelly office for quicker employment during the summer."
       If you're connected to the Internet, you can find thousands of jobs posted on-line; just be sure to verify that they're legitimate and right for you. Your school's web page is a great place to start. You also can search the web using search words such as student jobs or summer jobs. A search under education and employment at Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) listed thousands of summer job opportunities under categories such as national parks, summer camps, resorts, and ranches. The jobs ranged from wait staff, cooks, nurses, wranglers, maintenance, and security, to clerical positions.

       Other web searches may yield sites for other university job centers, or summer job opportunities listed by state or job type. There is either an e-mail address or name and phone number to contact for more information or an application packet.
       "There are wide-open opportunities for students at summer camps," says Zwickey, whose Student Job Center holds a summer camp job fair each February with eight to 10 states represented. With camps for inner-city kids, wilderness adventure, computers, performing arts, and canoeing, to name a few, the job experience can be varied and rewarding. And residence camps typically provide workers with food and lodging, which saves you money while you earn money.
       Don't limit yourself to reading want ads. Many jobs never make it to the classifieds. You're better off visiting personnel offices at several companies and filling out applications to leave with your resume. Each spring the UW job center holds a job fair promoting local jobs. Check out your campus student job center for a similar program.

"You should never have to pay any up-front fees to get a job or information."
Job scams
Steer clear of classified ads offering cruise ship or postal jobs, or moneymaking opportunities such as stuffing envelopes or reading books. All you need to do is send in money to get more information! "These people are not employers," Zwickey says. "They are selling worthless books at inflated prices." One student showed Zwickey a cruise ship job book that she says "had 14 listings with only two working phone numbers. One job listing required applicants to go to Hawaii to apply."
       "You should never have to pay any up-front fees to get a job or information," cautions Jody Collins, an assistant attorney general in Florida. "Anything that says money is required is a tip-off that it's a scam." Zwickey agrees and adds these other warning signs:

  • The emphasis is on the money you can make, not on the job description.
  • Company representatives are overly aggressive in efforts to recruit you.
  • The language in the ad is vague, and you can't get information over the phone, only during an interview.

       Although Zwickey says selling for an honest company can be an excellent background for students, there's a lot of hype and students have to be very careful. "We had a company that recruited kids and wouldn't let them sell in their own territory. They pressured kids to work unhealthy hours 12 hours a day, six days a week, and on the seventh day they have meetings, " Zwickey says. Students had to pay for training, transportation, and lodging pushing overpriced books door-to-door using marginally ethical sales tactics. They were too far away and too broke to get home. Because of this, Zwickey says the Student Job Center generally does not post jobs seeking to hire students as independent contractors.

Selling yourself
Be honest, be direct, be neat, and show enthusiasm, advises Zwickey. "Most employers tell us they'd rather choose dependable over bright and difficult. Attitude and aptitude are the two most important things." She says a good attitude goes a long way and makes people want to give you a chance. Show that you can follow directions, be pleasant, and trustworthy.
       Now you're armed with the knowledge to land a summer job that's right for you. Happy hunting.

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