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The Best Summer Jobs for High School and College Students
The sun is shining, temperatures are rising, and the allure of eating a hotdog at a baseball stadium is becoming almost too strong to resist.
That’s right – summer is around the corner, and with it comes pool parties, tan lines, and summer nights around the bonfire. And of course, summer jobs.
High school and college students alike often use their summer break to land a summer job to make some money before classes pick back up in the fall.
While this is a great opportunity to make some extra cash in your free time, your summer job can also be a great way to gain valuable professional experience, grow your professional network, and plant the seeds for your lifelong intentional and fulfilling relationship with money.
Today we are chatting about all things summer jobs: what to look for when applying for summer jobs, how to make the most of them for your professional and financial future, and which jobs may be the best fit for you!
Ready? Let’s get into it!
What to look for in a summer job
Not all summer jobs are made equal. Depending on what you are looking for, certain jobs may be a better fit for you than others.
Here are a few things to consider when you are on the hunt for your summer job.
Rate of pay
Seems pretty straightforward, we know. But we gotta bring it up.
If you have a certain financial goal for your summer job, such as funding a week-long trip with friends or putting $5,000 in your savings account, then you need to make sure you are applying for jobs that offer a rate of pay that aligns with your goals.
While many summer jobs commonly offer minimum wage, there are plenty of employment opportunities that pay above that even with limited experience.
Make sure that you are seeking opportunities that you will be able to leave at the end of the summer or that offer flexible hours that can work around your schedule as a student once classes pick up in the fall.
Having a flexible schedule will also allow you to enjoy your summer and take some well-deserved time to rest and recharge from a busy school year.
If you have limited professional experience in a certain job, fear not: plenty of summer jobs are available for people with limited (or even no) previous work experience.
If you already have some professional experience or are a college student studying a specific industry, it may be of benefit to seek out a summer job that will give you relevant experience in your desired field.
Even if your summer role is entry level, if you are able to secure a position in your field of study, you will gain priceless knowledge, hands-on experience, and insight that can give you a competitive edge upon formally entering the workforce.
How to make the most of your summer job
Summer jobs aren’t just an opportunity to earn a little cash between semesters – they can give you valuable experience, grow your professional network, attract future employers, build your confidence, and provide the financial means to develop healthy money habits at an early age.
Create a financial plan
Trust us, we know firsthand how easy it is to work all summer long only to have nothing to show for it come the fall because we didn’t stick to any kind of budget (we all were young once too, believe it or not)!
Upon accepting an offer for a summer job, make sure to prioritize your personal finance by setting aside some time to create a financial plan so that you can mindfully earn, save, and spend your money all summer long.
Start by writing down a few financial goals for the summer and when you hope to reach them. Maybe you want to buy Harry Styles concert tickets in July, or visit your cousins in Florida at the end of the month, or finally snag a Telfar bag for the new semester. Whatever your goals may be, write them down along with the estimated cost of each of these goals.
(PS: make sure that proactively growing your long-term savings is one of your financial goals this summer and all year round!)
Next, write down how much money you anticipate earning from this job over the course of the summer and divide that number evenly into an estimated monthly amount.
Now, figure out how much of each paycheck you will have to contribute to your various financial goals in order to reach them by the deadlines that you set. Need to save $500 in order to buy Harry Styles tickets and a cute outfit for the concert by July? Well, you’ve got about four weeks left, so you will have to contribute at least $125 to that goal each week.
It’s important to keep in mind that the more specific you can be with your financial plan, the easier it will be to stick to it. So try to make your plan as detailed and realistic as possible in order to set yourself up for success.
Actively seek out opportunities to learn a new skill or gain experience within your role
One of the best parts about a summer job is the opportunity to gain professional experience and rack up desirable skills that will dazzle on a resume.
Accepting projects that are outside your immediate role or require you to develop new skills can be a great way to not only impress supervisors, but also gain additional experience and develop further skills that will give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Keep in mind that, while it is a wonderful quality to go above and beyond in your work and always be willing to step up to new challenges and responsibilities, you should also always be appropriately compensated for your time and effort. If a supervisor repeatedly asks you to take on projects or responsibilities that fall outside the scope of your role or cause you to work longer hours, those requests need to be accompanied with a conversation regarding additional compensation.
Does the idea of negotiating for fair compensation give you the ick? Trust us, you’re not alone. Fortunately, we are here to give you the information and strategies you need to confidently negotiate that increase in pay. Learn how to master the art of negotiating with our best selling course, Navigating the Negotiation, and never get underpaid again!
Make sure to have a point of contact at your summer job that you can use as a reference later
When you start applying for full-time jobs, you will often be asked to provide a handful of professional references that can verify your work history and skills. Make sure that when it’s time to head back to school and leave your summer job that you get the contact information for your supervisor, manager, or boss so that you can use them as a professional reference in the future.
You may even ask them to write you a letter of recommendation that you can use as needed during your future job-hunting process.
Stay in touch with your boss, supervisors, and coworkers via LinkedIn
We are all familiar with the old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – and while we believe that knowledge, skills, and experience are essential to successfully completing any job, there is some truth to the phrase.
In the professional world, having a personal connection can be the deciding factor in beating out another candidate for a job, so having a wide professional network is an extremely valuable tool.
Update your resume with the skills and experience you gathered at your summer job
Many people don’t include their summer jobs on their resume simply because they think the experience won’t be taken seriously or that working a job for only three months will “look bad.” Friend, let us be the ones to reassure you that this could not be further from the truth.
As mentioned previously, summer jobs are often great opportunities to gain valuable experience and develop critical skills that are highly desirable by employers, so don’t be afraid to display those qualities on your resume!
The best summer jobs for students
Now that you know what to look for in a summer job and how to make the most of it for your financial and professional future, here are some of the best jobs that are commonly available for students each summer so that you can pick the job that is best for you!
Many college students will accept an internship role before they graduate. Internships can be a great way to gain experience and develop valuable skills in your field of interest, but many require a significant time and effort commitment without the guarantee of pay.
When applying for internships, make sure you consider the various pros and cons. Some pros include gaining practical experience, growing your professional network, improving the job search post-college, and potentially earning college credit for your time commitment, while some cons include potentially providing free labor while enriching for profit companies.
Additionally, it is important to note that unpaid or low-paid internships contribute to the widening gap between people from richer backgrounds and those from poorer backgrounds in terms of opportunity. We often see that the only students who can accept an unpaid internship are those who do not need to make their own independent income in order to pay their bills, fund their lifestyle, or survive.
Try using Handshake, it’s a great resource for students for finding internships and jobs all year round.
Many students take on seasonal jobs during the summer as the duration of these roles often line up perfectly with their summer break. Working as a lifeguard, camp counselor, landscaper, or nanny often requires limited experience while offering a fairly wide range of pay and the promise of valuable life experience.
Service industry roles
If you want to develop skills such as customer service, teamwork, critical thinking, and creative problem solving under pressure, look no further than the service industry. Roles such as restaurant hosts, servers, and baristas require very limited professional experience and are sure to help you develop desirable professional skills.
Plus, many service industry roles offer flexible hours and allow you to earn tips which, depending on your circumstances, may allow you to earn far beyond minimum wage.
Do you have a heart for the community? Are you often looking for opportunities to make your voice heard? Are you involved in school politics and event planning? If so, campaigning may be the perfect summer job for you!
In addition to earning income and valuable professional experience, your involvement in a campaign will show that you are active within your community which is very attractive to internships and scholarship boards.
What could be better than getting paid to hang out at your favorite store? Plus, in addition to the other awesome benefits of having a summer job, you may also get a discount on merchandise that you love!
With that being said though, working in retail can pose a unique challenge in that you may be tempted to spend a lot of your money on all the cool stuff in the store. This is a great opportunity to practice mindful spending and stick to the financial plan you created for your summer job.
Is impulsive spending throwing your financial plan off course? Check out our course, Curb Emotional Spending, and learn how to take your power back so that you can maintain your budget and invest in purchases that you LOVE.