How and where to find your first summer job


If you are a university student then you have more than likely secured a summer job in the past, and have probably already been working on your plans for this summer. If you are a high school student, you need to start the ball rolling and get your head in job search mode as soon as possible.

First time job seekers often are mystified as to where to start looking for their first paid opportunity. (Aside from asking for help from your parents’ friends, which is actually a great place to start as they are likely a great source of information and potential contacts.)

There are five main industries where students with little or no experience can look for summer jobs:

  1. Hospitality – hotels, restaurants, tour guides, casino worker, transportation
  2. Office – administrative, research, customer service, clerk, IT department, social media advisor
  3. General labour – construction, warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, gardener/landscaping, automotive
  4. Retail – cashier, stock room, sales, model, merchandising,
  5. Recreation – camp, event planner, programmer, teen leader, sports instructor, pools, babysitter at fitness centre, golf courses, marinas,

Identify the types of environments you enjoy and would prefer to work in. That will help you select an industry. For example, if you don’t enjoy being outdoors and sunburn easily, you should avoid jobs at parks and pools.

The first step in looking for a job is to assess your skills and see what you bring to the table. Get someone to help you analyze the class projects you worked on, tasks you’ve learned from your parents such as like painting, cooking, carpentry or automotive to determine your transferable skills. Make a list of tasks you like to do and those you hate.

Kevin Makra in his must-have book Summer Jobs in Canada, Sentor Media Inc., suggests you ask yourself these questions to get focused on what you want.

  • What things (activities, hobbies, trends) am I most interested in?
  • What do I like to spend my time doing?
  • What am I good at? (Include recreational activities, school subjects, volunteer work, etc)
  • What would I like to be good at?
  • What skills would I like to learn or develop further?
  • What are some of my strengths?
  • What strengths would I like to have?
  • What topics do I have the most knowledge of?
  • What are some of my weaknesses?
  • What are the specific duties related to those jobs that I would enjoy?
  • How can I go about developing the required skill sets?

Also ask yourself:

  • Who do I know who could give me advice or guidance choosing an industry to start applying to?
  • Who do my parents know who may appreciate my skills at their companies? Or offer me advice.
  • What companies are offering intern programs this summer?
  • Where can I find someone who is doing what I’d like to do?
  • Where have my friends applied? Who do they know?
  • Is my Facebook page interesting and am I proud of what it says? Would it impress a potential employer?
  • Where can I find a great resume and cover letter sample?

Now you need to get a social insurance number, a resume and learn how to write tailored cover letters. To save yourself a mountain of time, I recommend reading Summer Jobs in Canada, (ISBN # 1-89-6324-17-7). This book lists national programs and opportunities available across Canada and is chock full of extensive contact information, job descriptions, web sites and job search tips. Happy hunting, and have a great summer!

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It
Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group

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