Summer Job Hunting 101

Sooner than later, the lines at your local fast food joints will be filled with more summer job seekers than hungry customers. Mallrats will be replaced by well-mannered students with résumés in hand. And your parents will begin a steady, annoying cadence that will only end when you’ve got a place to finally stamp your timecard:

“Have you’ve found a job yet… Have you’ve found a job yet? Have you’ve found a job yet?!?!”

Well, have you?

Sure, you can choose to diss the job search all together, and spend the summer bored, broke and having to do mom and dad’s laundry every morning just to pass the time. But that’s just awkward for everyone.

In other words, you need a job. And in order to beat the flood of slackers that will spill onto the ‘Net and into stores once we work our way into June, you need to start looking now. According to a recent Junior Achievement summer jobs survey, more than 85 percent of students ages 15 and older plan on looking for jobs. And if you do the quick math, you’ll realize not everyone is going to get their first choice of jobs (or second, or third). Someone is digging ditches, but that someone doesn’t have to be you.

So, here are a few tips to make sure you’re not stuck folding dad’s boxer shorts in the middle of July…

Have realistic summer job expectations

Everyone has that one friend with the dream summer job – the one who makes more than you, works less and seemingly possesses an unlimited amount of sick days. (And by sick days, we mean days spent tanning by the pool while reading a copy of US Weekly). It may seem like that friend has won the summer job lottery, and we don’t want to be the fun police, but what is he/she really learning? Even if a summer job may not appear to be the yellow brick road to your dream career, you’d be surprised at what you can take away from the right job.

Here are a few ideas of how summer employment can lend credible experience to your future dream job…

Cashier: Investment banker

Before you start investing millions of dollars belonging to Fortune 500 big wigs, you’re going to need to master making change for a $20 purchase. And those pesky penny rolls are a pain to break open.

Arts & crafts retail store stockperson: Designer to the stars

It’s doubtful that designing a dress for the Oscar red carpet walk will require you to know which kind of glue works best for attaching googly eyes onto pipe cleaners. But such a job can be the first rung on the ladder to establishing that prized and posh skill set.

Camp counselor: Professional coach, athlete or trainer

Making sure that a dozen rug rats playing dodgeball don’t deliver each other black eyes is a good warm-up for playing with the big boys and girls. Here you can hone your understanding of game fundamentals and polish your locker room communication without worrying about upsetting any big league prima donnas.

Pizza delivery driver: Musician

Hear us out first! Carpooling pizzas in your hatchback through strange neighborhoods at a responsible speed may not be the same as doing an acoustic set at the House of Blues, but answer us this: How many other jobs let you listen to any music you want to, as loud as you want to (without headphones)? That’s what we thought.

Sound advice

Job hunting and workplace clichés are a dime a dozen. You’ve probably heard to “dress for the job you want, not the one you have” or to “work outside the box.” As annoying as these are to hear – and as hard as that pesky “box” is to find – clichés serve a purpose in that there’s usually a meaningful nugget of truth at the core of each. Conversely, the time to serve up clichés is not during a job interview. When speaking with a potential employer, be candid but be careful. Likewise, be yourself but be sure to filter out the just plain weird stuff (your potential employer doesn’t need to know about your boy band fan club), and be one more thing…

Be honest with potential employers

This starts with being honest with yourself. If you’re a proud vegan who isn’t sure you could stand handling meat patties and prime-cut filets all day, then skip the restaurant summer job route. Being honest also includes your initial conversations with potential bosses. Don’t over-commit to the amount of hours you’ll be able to work up front and then back down. Also, don’t claim you posses certain skills and experiences even if you don’t. We know it’s exciting to be on the cusp of landing a job, but the quickest way to crash and burn in your new gig is by fibbing.

Don’t be “that guy” or “that girl”

When dozens and dozens of your peers are vying for the same coveted job, don’t make it easy for a potential employer to take you out of the running early. From having crass cell phone ring tones blowing up during an interview to dropping off a résumé while wearing a tuxedo T-shirt, the list of these embarrassing faux pas is long. When in doubt, pause, and then exercise a little common sense.

Start now

Seriously…right now. And save yourself some time and gas money by browsing for summer jobs on