6 ways to make the most of a summer job

By Richard Barrington

As campuses empty across the nation, many students are setting out in search of their perfect summer job. Unfortunately, finding great summertime work is easier said than done.

The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 to 19 is often about three times the national unemployment rate -- a problem that becomes especially severe when that national rate is itself quite high. Therefore, students who do find a summer job need to make the most of it by capitalizing on the experience they gain, the contacts they make and the money they earn.

Six ways to make the most of a summer job

Here are six ways to get the most benefit from your summer work:

  1. Strive for perfect attendance. Summer is full of temptations, but don't let them lure you away from your job responsibilities. Show up on time every day, and show a willingness to take on extra hours if necessary. With jobs scarce, the most reliable workers stand the best chance of keeping their jobs and getting hours.
  2. Find ways to add value. Try to work in a way that genuinely helps the business. You'll find that caring about your impact not only helps your employer appreciate you, but it also can make the work more interesting and the work day go faster.
  3. Look to take responsibility. If there is an opportunity to take on extra responsibility, whether it be a supervisory role or taking the lead on a given project, state your interest in doing so. At the very least, this will give you some added experience to highlight on your resume, and it may also get you considered for a higher pay rate.
  4. Cultivate relationships. People who remember you as positive and hard-working may be good references or contacts for job opportunities in the future. Be personable, make sure the people you encounter regularly know your name, and strive to be known for your effort and output.
  5. Express interest in returning. Summer jobs are seldom sexy. There is often a fair amount of drudgery involved. Maybe you can't imagine wanting to do the same job next summer, but keep in mind that summer jobs are hard to come by, and all will have their drawbacks. You aren't obligated to come back, but you should express an interest in doing so and find out when the best time is to get back in touch about a job the following summer.
  6. Save money. Unless you plan to work all year, a summer job is your one opportunity to store up a little cash to see you through to next summer. For easy access, you may have your pay deposited into a checking account, but start a saving account as well. Set a target for how much of each paycheck should go into your saving account, so you can earn interest and deter yourself from spending all of your earnings too quickly.

Students who follow these tips can get more out of a summer job than just a little pocket money and a way to occupy their time. They can walk away at the end of the summer with some money in the bank, some great experience for their resumes and the beginnings of a strong career network.