High School Students: Tips for Finding and Landing a Summer Job

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Summer is just around the corner (and for some of you, it may already be here).  What does this mean? More time to spend with friends and family, the chance to soak up some Vitamin D by the pool, and more spare time to start earning some extra cash at a summer job.

When I worked with students as a college and career counselor, assisting them with writing resumes, finding a job, and preparing for interviews were some of my favorite aspects of it.  In this post, I’ll outline the steps towards applying for a job, how to impress during your interview, as well as the steps you should take after the interview is over.

Let’s get started!

The Application Process

1. Where to Begin?
The first step towards applying for a job is determining which jobs you are eligible for.  Some of the most common places for high schools to work as a first job are the food and service industry (fast food restaurants), retail (being a cashier or sales associate at a clothing store), or grocery stores (bagging, stocking, or cashiering).  Your options are not limited to this list, but these types of businesses are good places to get started in your job search process.

2. Narrowing Down Your Options.
There are a few ways to narrow down which businesses you’d like to apply to. Begin by asking your friends where they work, and whether the company is hiring. Next, decide if there is an area of your town/city you want to work in, and focus on finding work in that specific area. If you don’t drive, consider applying to businesses that you can walk to or take public transportation to easily.  Lastly, check out your local newspaper/online job board.  Sometimes you can find great opportunities posted, but remember, many other people are also seeing these options, so the competition might be higher when applying.

3. Applying for the Job.
Once you’ve created your list of places you want to apply to, begin by visiting  these businesses in person.  Even though this is not an interview, make sure to look presentable (so no sweat pants).  This is your first impression for a new employer. Once you arrive, ask for an application and complete it during that same visit. Make sure to bring copies of your resume to submit with your application. While turning in your application, ask to speak to a manager.  If the manager is available, shake their hand and introduce yourself.  I also advise asking when you may hear from them for an interview.

4. Follow-Up.
Always call the businesses you applied to within a few days to check on the status of your application. Ask to speak with the manager, otherwise you could be speaking with someone who has no leverage in whether you’re offered an interview.  By following up, you show the business that you are responsible and serious about wanting a job.

The Interview

You’ve done it!  You’ve been called for an interview. Now what?

1. Your appearance.
Make sure you have a professional outfit to wear the day of your interview. Typically business casual is safe for most job interviews.  This means a nice pair of slacks with a nice blouse or button-down shirt. Modest dresses with a reasonable length (to your knees) are also considered professional.

2. What to Bring.
A folder containing extra copies of your resume as well as a notebook and pen for writing notes.

3. Preparing for the Interview.
No matter what job you are applying to, be prepared to talk about yourself.  ”Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common requests of an interviewer.  As a response, talk about your strengths and how they make you a good candidate for this position.  Maybe you have leadership experience in a school club or sport, or you’ve been responsible for babysitting younger siblings. Thinking about what you’ve learned from these experiences, and how what you’ve learned will make you a good employee.  Other popular questions asked during an interview include:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Talk about a challenge you have faced. How did you overcome it?”
  • “How are you different from other candidates?”
  • Bonus: if one of your friends works for the company, you can ask them what types of questions they were asked.

4. During the Interview.
It is okay to be nervous.  That is normal.  Take your time to answer questions, and if you aren’t sure, don’t panic.  Give a firm handshake (but not bone-crushing firm) at the beginning and end of your interview.  If you don’t already have it, ask for the contact information of the person you interviewed with. At the end of the interview, ask a few questions of your own. This shows the company you are invested and interested. Examples include:

  •  ”When will I hear from you about next steps?”
  • “Describe your perfect candidate for this position.”
  • “What is the most challenging aspect of this position?”

What To Do After the Interview

1. Say Thank You. If the interviewer provided an email address, send a note thanking them for their time and letting them know you look forward to hearing from them soon.

2. Call. After a week, if you still haven’t heard from the business, give them a call to let them know you are still interested in the position and ask if any decisions have been made.

3. Don’t Lose Focus. If you’ve had an interview, that’s great, but you don’t want to count on being offered the job.  If you are serious about finding a job, continue your search process while you are waiting for the final decisions.  Besides, you may be offered several jobs, allowing you to choose whichever one you want!

Beyond following this advice, believe in yourself and be confident! You’re ahead of the game now and prepared to get started on your summer job search. For additional tips, check out this College Greenlight blog post. Good luck!

Original Post Date: May 21st, 2014

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