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Your last-minute guide to finding a summer job

Colleen Clarke|

It is often very challenging for a student to find their first summer job, or for that matter, their second or fourth! The first job objection is of course that you don’t have any experience, so how do you get experience without experience.

There is an interesting shift in the tactics of students looking for work in this decade. The most obvious place to start looking it seems is with your parents. Your baby boomer parents are usually very well connected, have had several jobs over their careers or worked in many different departments of the same company for the last 30 years and have an active network. A friend of mine has done his son’s job search for him for the last 5 years, reality will set in one day but so far it has kept his student child gainfully, though remarkably underemployed for his capabilities… It beats doing your own search though, apparently.

If skills are what you are lacking, look at your strengths. Consider how you attack a project or your homework or your attitude towards life. Are you eager to learn, have lots of enthusiasm, like to take risks, welcome challenge and variety? Maybe you can speak more than one language and have done babysitting or helped neighbors with yard work. Spend some time soul searching what you would like to find and what you definitely don’t want to be doing.

Before you do anything else you will want to pick up “The Canadian Summer Job Directory“, by Sentor Media.

Author Kevin Makra says the first thing one has to do to find employment is to consider the types of jobs available to you. He says there are 5 different industries where youth with little or no work experience can often find work:

1. Hospitality

      – hotel worker, restaurant worker, tour


      guide, casino worker, exhibition work, CNE or PNE, Calgary



2. Office

      – administrative assistant, law office


      gopher, receptionist, clerk, mailroom

3. General labour


      construction worker, warehouse worker, gardener/landscaper, parks and



4. Retail

      – grocery clerk, sales associate,


      cashier, stock person,

5. Recreation

      – swimming pools, camp


    counsellor, special event worker (Pepsi challenge), babysitter

Makra says the second step is to assess the skills you have and what you can offer the job market. Get to know yourself. Honestly identify your strengths, skills, weaknesses, hobbies, what you like to do and what you dislike doing, environments you prefer like an office versus the outdoors. Ask yourself what motivates you to get up every day, aside from your mother; what kind of magazines do you read and what topics of films and books do you like.

Now you will need a social insurance card, a resume and references. To apply for a SIN number go to For resume and reference tips check out this Workopolis site.

If you have to use an application form, ask for two copies, one to write out for practice, in pencil, and one as the final application, in pen. The trickiest question on an application form is the salary. Print OPEN.

If you can’t find a summer job consider volunteering in an area of your interest and skill level. You might even look for an internship which could lead to paid work.

One of the biggest down falls of job applicants if applying to jobs that you think, “I could do this job.” If you haven’t done it and you don’t have the education or the training then chances are there are a plethora of candidates who can actually do the job because they have done it before. Now, that being said, if you can network your way into an interview for this job you may be able to land it based on that philosophy by selling yourself in the interview.

Whether you look at: golf courses, retail, law firms, the government, consumer goods, the YM and YWCA, camps, water parks, provincial and national parks, hospitality, health care facilities or your local pizzeria when you go to apply, look your best and bring your personality and enthusiasm with you. The references you receive from your summer jobs will be the only references you have until you graduate into full time employment, make yourself proud.

Service Canada’s 2011 Job Guide.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

Category: Job Search Strategies,