Finding a summer job or internship

Every year the race begins again. You slip on your best shoes and your most responsible attitude and hit the streets running. The countdown's on to find the best summer employment available.


Why Get a Summer Job or Internship?

Summer jobs and internships have lots of terrific benefits. Working is a great way to prepare for life after high school or for college. The skills you learn early on will help you develop the professional talents you'll need throughout your life. These include basic but important skills like customer service, caring for children and even learning to work with a boss!

Work experience can also help people feel good about them. The self-esteem and self-confidence you can develop at a job or internship will come in handy when you're ready to interview for college or a job after high school.

What's the Right Job for Me?

Take the first step in landing the right job before you even start looking: Think about what's motivating you to get the job. Is it because you need money, want to build your work experience, or want a job that looks good on your resume or will help you get into college? Knowing what you want will help bring job satisfaction.

Next, make a list of your interests and strengths, as well as your weaknesses, and keep them in mind as you look for a job. For example, you may be in love with books or gifted when it comes to animals a job in a bookstore or pet store would be perfect for you. On the other hand, if looking after little kids drives you crazy or if you burn in the sun, then you'll know to avoid babysitting or lifeguard jobs.

A job or internship should not only be enjoyable, it should be a learning experience too. Because working demands so much of your time, try to find a job or internship that may help guide you toward your long-term goals. For example, if you want to study veterinary science in college, finding a job in a vet's office, animal shelter, or even a pet store may be better choices for you than working in a restaurant.

Where Should I Start?

Begin by putting together a resume. A good resume is your best job-hunting tool. Unlike an application form, which you only fill out when you're applying for a particular job opening, you can hand resumes out to relatives, friends of the family, teachers, and other people you know. Ask them to pass it on to anyone who might be interested in hiring you. Hundreds of job-related sites on the Internet offer advice on preparing a resume.

The most common way to find a job opening is by reading the classified ads section of your local newspaper. Of course, some of the jobs listed usually those that appear under "sales" and claim you can work for yourself and make thousands of dollars a week may be too good to be true. So make sure the job ad mentions what the work entails (e.g., "server, evenings and weekends" or "day camp counselor").

Some people also get job leads from their school counselors, whereas others fill out applications or drop off resumes at prospective employers and temporary employment agencies. If you're interested in working at a restaurant, bookstore, garden center, or other service business in your area, the best approach is to go there and fill out an application form.

If you can afford to work on a short-term basis without pay, volunteering can be a great way to get quality experience that looks good on a resume. Check out the volunteer center in your area (or online) for ideas, or head over to your local YMCA, YMHA, or JCC and offer to coach soccer or help out with a summer camp. Help your favorite teacher tutor summer-school students. Walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Work with a local environmental organization on river cleanup or help the National Park Service maintain hiking trails in your area. Volunteering means you'll be working for a good cause something that future employers or colleges like to see on an applicant's resume while investing time in your career goals.

Your school counselor may be able to help open other doors of opportunity via internships. Some companies and businesses offer bright students short-term, hands-on training (and sometimes even a modest rate of pay) in exchange for a willingness to learn and work hard. If you perform well at your internship, you may be offered a full-time job next summer or even an ongoing part-time job. Internships can also provide you with valuable references that can help you to land future jobs.

If traditional job opportunities don't appeal to you, consider more creative opportunities. Be your own boss by starting a pet sitting, dog walking, lawn care, computer services, or cleaning business. Print up flyers advertising the services your business offers, your rates, and your phone number or email address, then drop one off at every house in your neighborhood.

Some enterprising people recognize opportunities in an existing business that the business owner may not see. For example, Amalia frequently heard her aunt complain that she never had time to take care of the accounting in her small graphic design firm because she and her partner were too busy. Although Amalia knew that she couldn't handle the business's finances, she offered to help her aunt after school by answering phones and handling the mail and copying, giving her aunt time to do other tasks.

Other Things to Consider

Keep these practical limitations in mind when you apply for the job of your dreams:

Safety first. Some jobs just aren't right for teens. For example, jobs that involve working alone late at night put anyone at risk for muggings or assaults, particularly people who are young and inexperienced. The National Consumers League warns about these five worst jobs for teens:

Agricultural field work or processing

Construction jobs and jobs that involve working at heights, such as on ladders and scaffolding

Landscaping, lawn service, and other outdoor work

Jobs that involve driving or operating everything from delivery trucks to forklifts

Jobs that involve door-to-door sales, such as selling magazine subscriptions

Know the law. Federal and state laws limit the number of hours teens can work. For summer employment (when school is not in session), the federal government does not allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and they cannot work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. You can find out your state's laws and curfews (times when teens are not allowed to work) by calling your state department of labor. If you know your curfews and mention them when interviewing for or starting a job, your boss can keep them in mind when he or she schedules your start or quitting time.

Getting there. Be sure your job location is within walking distance or on a regular bus route if you don't have your driver's license or access to a car. If you do drive, it's usually a good idea leave a few minutes early especially on the first couple of days you're working to be sure you arrive on time without feeling pressured.

The Interview

It's not just previous job history or unique skills that matter at the interview. Both your attitude and your appearance affect your chances of getting the job you want. You've probably heard your parents talk about making a good first impression with what you wear (it may sound like a lecture, but in this case they're right!). Here are some other strategies to help make your interview a success:

Appear confident. Look your potential employer in the eye, shake his or her hand, and remember another parental mantra: good manners.

Be prepared. Find out what you can about the position or company in advance and show your knowledge during the interview. Doing a little research on the job or field in which you're applying so easy to do on the Internet shows the interviewer that you're smart and eager to learn. Knowing what a position involves also allows you to think in advance about which specific skills you have that fit well with the job.

Answer (and ask!) questions. You'll no doubt be asked typical interview questions, such as why you're interested in the position, what types of skills you offer, and the hours you're available to work. Prepare your answers before the interview. And don't be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions doesn't make you look stupid. In fact, it's the reverse. Questions show the interviewer that you're thoughtful and that you're not afraid to interact with other people a particularly good interview strategy if the position involves dealing with people, such as a guide or salesperson.

Follow up. Send your interviewer a brief email or letter thanking him or her for spending time with you. Repeat your interest in the position. This is a particularly good strategy if you're interviewing for an internship or office position. Your future employer will be impressed by your determination.

Looking for a job, preparing for a job interview, and even getting to work are all areas in which a parent or older sibling can offer good advice. So don't hesitate to ask for help on everything from putting together your resume to choosing an interview outfit. Chances are, you'll be interviewing and working for people their age anyway so a little insight can't hurt.