If you live in the U.S., you’re out of school for the summer (or soon will be) and maybe you’d like to make some cash. And maybe your mom is insisting that this summer you will not be sleeping in until noon every day and you will have to find something productive to do or she will put you to work scrubbing the bathrooms and pulling weeds (which, let’s face it, you should be doing anyway as a contributing member of your family—but that’s a whole other post). When I was a teenager, I babysat and ironed for my mother to earn extra money (in those days we did indeed iron), and then the summer after I turned 16, a member of our ward who was part owner of a new amusement center comprised of a miniature golf course, a giant waterslide, batting cages, and a video arcade offered the teenagers in the ward summer jobs. I spent the summer handing out golf clubs and balls and goofing around with my friend Susan (which I now realize was not the most responsible thing to do while working, but I was young), who worked with me at the cash register. It was an ideal summer job.
Alas, it seems to be much harder to find a summer job these days. My daughter has been applying at various places, including at a local amusement center, a museum gift shop, a toy store, and, since she’ll be starting at BYU summer term, she’s applying at the Cougareat and has reached out to several professors asking them about possible on-campus work. It’s tough, because she’s a mere freshman and the only job experience she has is tutoring a neighbor girl in piano and doing some scanning and filing at my husband’s office. So far she’s still jobless, but she is intrepid enough that I am confident she will find something. I have been coaching her through the process, and, in case you, too, would like some job-hunting help, here are some tips:
- Ask friends, acquaintances, ward members, family members, the woman in line in front of you at the grocery store if they know of any available summer jobs. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most teenagers find their first job by word-of-mouth, and it helps if someone you know recommends you for a job.
- Don’t be picky. It may not be your dream to wash windows or work in a snow cone shack in sweltering heat or help Sister Nelson sort her family photos, but a job is a job, and any work experience you gain will be helpful when you apply for other jobs. You have to start somewhere, right? And once you feel the satisfaction of earning your own money, you won’t think your job is so bad.
- If you can’t find work, try to create your own job. Ask neighbors if they would like to hire you to garden, do housework, collect their mail while they are on vacation, or walk their dog. Offer yourself as a babysitter or au pair. My daughter earned a few extra dollars from me last summer by doing the scrapbooking I’d been putting off for ahem, several years. It wasn’t a lucrative job, by any means, but it gave her some extra spending money.
- When you apply for a “real” summer job, you will need a resume. You can find templates and guidelines for resume writing on many helpful websites, such as this one, or this one. Be creative when you list your skills and accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to include any leadership or volunteer experiences you’ve had, such as being a Beehive class president—yes, that really does count as leadership experience. (You could say, “Served as class president of the youth organization at my church; worked with adult and other youth leaders to plan activities, organize service opportunities, oversee Sunday lessons, and reach out to less-involved youth”—or something like that.) When I told my daughter to include her GPA on her resume, she asked, “Won’t that sound like I’m boasting?” To which I replied that the point of a resume is to boast, or to show not only your work experience but your character, talents, and accomplishments. You want to show potential employers that you are a person worthy of hiring! If you have a high GPA and you list it on your resume, your potential employer will know that you are probably a hard worker and that you follow through on your assignments. You won that writing contest? That means you probably have good writing skills. You were the cross-country team captain? That shows you have leadership skills. Include any scholastic or athletic achievements and service projects you’ve participated in.
- Many businesses accept applications online, but don’t be afraid to go in person to a potential employer and hand him or her your resume. Look him or her in the eye, smile, shake hands. Follow up with him or her if you don’t hear back about your application within a reasonable period of time. Learn how to write a professional but friendly email so that you can email when that is your potential employer’s preferred communication. Ask your mom or dad for help—they have probably applied for a job or two before. And if you happen to be invited in for an interview, did I mention that it’s important to look your potential employer in the eye, smile, and shake hands? Being polite and friendly is a must.
- If all of your attempts fail and you don’t get hired this summer, don’t despair. Research local volunteer opportunities, such as tutoring a struggling student or helping at a vet’s office. Consider starting your own little business (see tip# 3). Whether you get paid or not, any experience you gain will be a valuable help the next time you apply for a job—and it will give you something to do other than scrubbing bathrooms at home or pulling weeds—when you’re not trying to sleep in until noon.