Summer Jobs

by Marie on May 9, 2012 · 6 comments

Its been tough for students to get a summer job since the recession hit, but that doesn’t mean you should give your student a pass on finding one.

Summer jobs are important for a variety of reasons. Of course, students need (or want) the extra cash they receive from a summer job, but a summer job can offer much more than a few extra dollars.

Approached properly, that summer job can supply much needed experience in their intended field, training in the ways of the working world, development of a winning work attitude, education and a network of ongoing and useful contacts for future work.

Even if your student doesn’t land a paying job, there are still multiple avenues for them to reap the non-monetary benefits of a summer position.


Help your student prepare for their search by thinking through what they want to gain from their summer experience (and what you want them to gain!). They will no doubt come up with something similar to: “I want to earn lots of money and have fun”.

Your job will be to successfully guide them into thinking through the skills they hope to learn, how they think those skills will help them in future businesses or careers, the factors and features of a job that will be satisfying to them, the amount of money they can realistically expect to earn from such a job and what they have to offer an employer with that type of opportunity.


Help your student practice developing a resume, show them how to look for opportunities, help them practice for interviews and learn to understand what to expect from job fairs.

When my boys were in college, I made a deal with several of my fellow hiring managers – I would buy their lunch at a nice area restaurant, if they went with my son and conducted a mock interview. It gave my son a near real life experience in a technical interview situation, and my peers had fun meeting my son at a free lunch.

Use all available contacts for their job search

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Parents of their friends – suggest that, when they visit their friends at home, they mention their job search and ask their friend’s parents for help.
  • Church groups – tell all of your church friends, and have your student do the same, that your student is looking for a job and is really great at xyz.
  • Teachers and counselors – Before school is out, suggest that your student ask teachers and counselors if they know of anyone with opportunities, ask them if they can help land that summer job, and get a written recommendation from them if possible.
  • Your friends and associates – Don’t hesitate to reach out to your own real life and social networking friends and associates. If you use Facebook or LinkedIn, sit with your student and write up an announcement to post stating what your student has to offer.
  • Online boards – don’t forget to check the online job boards and contract for hire boards with your student. If your student has writing skills, they can, for example, pick up independent contractor jobs to write articles or posts for other sites from places such as
  • Job fairs – Attend a job fair and take your student with you – to show them the ropes. Then help them find a fair in your area that specializes in summer job placement.

Look for unconventional opportunities

Have your student go beyond applying at the local Walmart or McDonalds. Help them open their minds to other possibilities. Here are a few suggestions.


Summer interns are typically offered permanent positions after graduation. They are a great way for a student to ‘try out’ a job type to see if it matches their interests and skills.

Your student should begin the search for an intern position through his/her school resources. Next, have your student check with their (and your) references to see if any of their companies offer internships. Then you can help them look at companies employing your students network. Many times mid to large sized companies have a formal internship company. You can also use online sites to help locate them. One such site (which I just found by searching) – but there are several out there. I put in my zip code and the site listed 70 paid and unpaid internship opportunities, several with large well known companies.

Exotic locales

Perhaps it is important to your child to find a summer job in an exciting place.  Here are a few thoughts on finding a job in a great location.

International Opportunities

If your student’s goals would be furthered by a foreign job experience but you can’t afford to send them overseas, check out the various travel volunteerism programs available.

Multiple programs exist – start with your local church but also just search on the internet using words like “free volunteer travel”. Parents should vet these carefully – you would be trusting strangers in a foreign country with your children! Many of these require fees, but several are free or inexpensive. The opportunity to live, work and tour in a foreign country can be a great educational experience.

National Park Opportunities

Let them spend the summer in a US National park – with either a paid position or a volunteer opportunity.

Other exotic locations

Many tourist type locations in the US and around the world use a lot of unskilled or lower skilled employees during their prime season.

Online sites exist to match up the opportunities with the job seekers. CoolWorks is one I found with a simple internet search. It matches up employers in great (usually tourist type) areas with job seekers wanting to be there. Many jobs seem to be service related – such as front desk clerk at a park lodge or gift shop associate.


Encourage your student to start their own business – and help them figure out the opportunities, requirements, legalities, marketing, book keeping and customer service issues. Summer job opportunities are boundless here. For some ideas, take a look at the book Young Bucks – How to raise a future millionaire by Troy Dunn.

My young teen nephews have built up a referee service using their long soccer playing experiences to get the contacts and skills. They also hire themselves out to paint houses, mow lawns and other service type businesses.

Unpaid positions

If your student can’t find an appropriate paid job, have them explore unpaid opportunities. Since they are volunteering their time and spending their own money for transportation to and from the position, they should be picky about which experience they choose – to make sure it will meet most of their (and your) desires for skill and experience development as well as satisfaction and networking development.

Again, multiple online sites exist to help match up the volunteers with the opportunities. The University of Austin, for example, maintains a database of volunteer activities. Put in a zip, keyword and press go or use their advanced search .

Sometimes you have to just take what you can get.

If, after all of your and their efforts, your student ends up with a local burger slinging job, all is not lost.

Help them view the job as an opportunity – after all we do learn something from every experience we have (even if it is just that we don’t ever want to repeat that particular experience).

My Dad grew up on a farm. He had farm chores his father required him to do. He learned from that experience that he did NOT want to be a farmer and that knowledge drove him to get enrolled in a radio-electronics class which taught him how to make and repair radios and TVs. He parlayed that into an eventual job with McDonnell Aircraft corp (now Boeing) and helped develop the Gemini space craft!

Think about what the position can teach you

Help your student to figure out what they can learn from their McDonald’s job – things such as how a franchise is operated, how to satisfy an irate customer, how to setup an efficient food production line. Help them understand that if they learn how to sell, and sell well, they are building a foundational skill – every business in the world is built on the concept of selling something.

Look at the job from the employer’s viewpoint

Help your student think about their McDonald’s job from their employer’s viewpoint. Why did the job need to be there, what skills is your student’s manager expecting from your student – what attitudes would your student desire from someone in their position if they were the manager?

You might even suggest they interview the big cheese at some (appropriate) point to get the larger perspective. Suggest questions such as why they opened the business, what their greatest challenge is, how someone else can get started, how do they market, what systems do they have in place and etc.

Don’t be like me!

I didn’t plan ahead to find summer jobs (in fact, I didn’t even work during the summer until I graduated from high school). I took the most apparent and first available job and didn’t consider looking beyond my immediate neighborhood or think about what I should be learning from each position.

Your student can learn a lot from their summer job – skills, the role of responsibility, how business works, marketing, customer service, and much more. Help he or she make that learning a conscious endeavor instead of an accidental result.

What suggestions do you have for parents to help their students get the most from summer jobs?


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Invest It Wisely May 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Summer jobs are a great opportunity. Whatever you do, definitely don’t spend the summer just sitting at home.


2 Marie May 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Once you reach a certain age, spending the summer at home, in camp or etc just isn’t as fulfilling as getting new experiences – and earning money!


3 Christa May 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm

One thing I wish I had done for my summer job was accept a low-paying job in my field. Instead, I took the job that paid $2 more per hour. Doing so meant I missed out on important networking opportunities and learning trade secrets — all which could have jump started my career in the field I love rather than in the field I fell into for ten years.


4 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

See! Readers take heed….
Christa, thanks for sharing this.


5 Call Me What You Want Even Cheap May 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Good point Christa! I took a job in the field I wanted to study in right out of high school and they ended up paying for me to go to College.


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