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3 Steps to Finding a Summer Job, Regardless of the Deepening Recession

By: Steve Johnson

6/2/2011 - 192 Comments

With nine percent unemployment and much higher percent for young adults, getting a summer job is not an easy task. 

When I was a young adult, it was common for parents to help their children get jobs.  Learning how to get a job was something that schools didn’t teach and so parents taught their children this important skill. 

Of course the only way parents can teach these skills to their children is if they knew them themselves. 

From what I can remember, it sure seems like more people knew the skill of job hunting twenty years ago then they do today.  And if fewer parents today have these skills, then they cannot teach them to their children.  Perhaps we have lost this skill during the boom years, when jobs were much easier to find.  

Here are three steps that I learned from my years as a young adult looking for summer jobs.

1. Take the Difficult Job

I still remember some of the jobs my older brother had to take just to make enough money to pay for college the next year.  He doesn’t even like to talk them because of the bad memories they stir up.  I also worked a few difficult jobs.  One summer I remember taking a job for $8.25/hour for a construction company that was responsible for assembling a conveyor belt for a local factory. 

The hours were great and the people were pretty good to work with, but the frame that we were constructing was twenty to thirty feet high in some places.  Guess who had to climb up and walk the steel beams to line up the bolts?  The reason I could do that job was because I grew up climbing trees in the woods.  This is what I mean by taking the difficult job.  Sometime you need to take a difficult job because few people want to do it.  But the difficult jobs can sometime be the most rewarding.

At the end of the summer, the construction company offered me a job if I wanted to continue working for them rather than going back to college. I didn't take the job, but this opportunity was only presented to me because I was willing to take this difficult job.  Don’t wait for the perfect job to come your way. It’s not going to come anytime soon, perhaps ten years.  The companies that have difficult jobs are always hiring.  I have several factories and farms related jobs in the area that anyone could get a job at within one day.  Don’t spend all summer looking for a job, when you could have been working all summer. 

2. Use Relationships

When you go to grad parties and weddings this summer, don’t just go for the food and fun, but use them to look for opportunities to ask your friends and relatives for summer jobs openings.  Perhaps some of them are looking for summer help at their businesses, but didn’t want to post a job to the public and now that you mention you are available they may be willing to create an opening for you because of the relationship with you or your parents that reduces their risk of hiring someone. 

When I was a young adult, almost everyone got jobs this way.  If you don’t have a grad party coming up or you forgot to ask your relatives when you attended a grad party, then pick up the phone and call your friends and relatives. Start the conversation with reminding them of the party that they just saw them at and how good they looked since you last saw them.  Then ask them if they know of anyone looking for summer help. 

3. Be Persistent

When I say this to young people today, they don’t seem to understand what I’m saying.  I don’t mean to continue to apply for thousands of jobs until one day someone hires you.  That is not the persistence that I’m talking about.  Back in the day when I was looking for a summer jobs in high school and college, I learned this important lesson. 

Each summer I used to make a list of about 10 businesses that I thought would be a good summer job for me, based my by criteria of how many hours I would be able to work and how much money I needed to make by the end of the summer for the next year of school.  When applying for the jobs I would try to get a name or a phone number of the manager.  Then after waiting a few days I would begin calling them and asking for the manager.  They would usually tell me that they have not had the chance to look over the applications yet, in which I would remind them that I am every interested. 

I would then persist in calling them back every few days, asking for them by name until they began to remember by name.  At this point, I have gain name recognition and a leg up on every other application.  Consider these phone conversations as part of the applicant process.  They show that you are willing to work hard to get the task done and that you have good communication skills which are very useful in helping customers. Of course you need to remain honest and polite, even if they say no because you may need to call the back next year.

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