Steps to Getting a Summer Job

With summer at our fingertips, it’s that time to be seeking out summer jobs and, if you’re a senior, earning some money pre-college. That being said, if you’re unfamiliar with it, the path to employment can be a bit tricky to navigate. Below is a step-by-step walk through of what to generally be prepared for.


1. Make a resume

This is a huge must-do at one point or another. A resume should be a one-page representation of what you have accomplished thus far in your high school career. In general, you want to include sections for academics, work/internship experience, extracurriculars (or volunteer experience), and relevant awards/honors. Order the listed activities within each section by date – the most recent at the top. There isn’t necessarily one right way to do a resume. So long as it concisely showcases your strengths in a reader-friendly manner, you’re headed in the right direction.

2. Visit businesses

Once you have a resume that you feel good about, it’s beneficial to personally visit the stores, restaurants, or businesses that you are interested in applying to. It’s advisable to go during the slower hours of the day so that an employee can afford to spend time attending to a non-customer. Be sure to bring your resumes with you. It has been my experience that the majority of workers that you talk to at the register or front desk are incredibly helpful and friendly.

Inquire about if they are hiring for summer; unless they are managers, there is a decent chance that these employees will not know. If that’s the case, ask if they have an application on hand that you can fill out, and mention that you have a resume to leave behind. Many businesses will have an application there and, if not, they will direct you towards their application online.

3. Fill out applications

The applications themselves are the most fundamental part of the job-searching process. They can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes to fill out, but generally ask for the same kinds of things: your level of education, your weekly availability, your previous employment, and any professional (and sometimes personal) references that you can provide (usually up to three). In addition to this, some places may want you to list what your desired salary is.


Applications can seem strangely difficult – especially when you haven’t previously had the kinds of jobs that fit with their requirements. In other words, it’s a tad tricky pursuing a position at a coffee shop with no prior experience in the food service industry. However, it’s important to realize that businesses are often accustomed to taking on and training fresh faces. You also more respectable qualities that can carry over into the work force than you probably realize; playing a sport, for example, demonstrates dedication and willingness to be a successful member of a team.

As mentioned previously, a fair number of companies now have their applications online. (Warning: it isn’t unheard of for a company to want both a digital and hard copy.) When searching on a specific website, there is almost always a “careers” tab with the employment form and next steps listed.

4. Follow up

After you send that initial application, it’s really easy to get antsy. When are they going to look at it? Why haven’t they gotten back to me? Should I just take their silence as a “no” and move on? First things first, give businesses a good week, week and a half, even two weeks to glance over your resume, application, and information. They’re busy making a living, and – don’t be offended – you’re probably not their highest priority. But, once you are in that 7-14 day threshold, don’t be afraid to give that business a phone call (they’re harder to ignore than emails). All you need to say is, “Hi, my name is [your name here], and I wanted to check up on an application I dropped off [however many days] ago.” If they can’t give you a direct answer on the spot, they will guide you towards someone who can, or else provide a clearer time frame of when you will hear back.

In other instances, you will be followed up with. Most businesses prefer to call you rather than email (again – harder to ignore), and if you’re in school (which tends to happen a lot when they reach out…), they’ll leave behind a voicemail. For the most part, it will pertain to setting up a time to sit down and, well, interview you. Be professional and collected as you respond, and then quickly get to marking your calendar!

5. Interview

Every company chooses to conduct their interviews a little bit differently. Some prefer over the phone. Others are strictly in person. They can last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour plus. It could be just you, or you with several other potential candidates. No matter what, though, be confident in what you bring to the table. It’s important for the employer to like you, but (just as it is with picking colleges), it’s also crucial that you like the employer – or, at least, the job he or she is hiring for.

When in doubt, it’s better to over dress, and remember the importance of a firm handshake and good eye contact. Be comfortable talking about your strengths ahead of time, but also be well versed in your weaknesses; employers like to ask questions about when you’ve failed or what your greatest flaw is. Similarly, there may be a few case questions, hypothetical situations that they’ll bring up and then ask you how you’d respond. (“A customer accuses you of making his drink wrong. What do you do?” type of a thing.) Just stay relaxed, stay positive, and it’ll be over before you know it.



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  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

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