Just out of high school? Think “permanent” for a summer job


A friend’s son had just graduated from high school and was waiting for a phone call from a busboy job he’d interviewed for at a nearby hotel.

“Did he send a thank-you note?” I asked her.

“No,” she responded. “Should he have? It’s just a summer job that a lot of kids applied for.”

That’s exactly why he should have. With the talent and skills mismatch still going strong, competition is insanely fierce for any job, even one you’d think traditionally would be reserved for a high school student or graduate. The temptation to kick back and zone out all summer may be all you want to do, especially when you’ve got more school ahead of you after these few short months, but unfortunately the economy doesn’t work that way. And the jobs you take now can help you with your career.

So what can you do to make sure you stay well ahead of the clueless summer job searchers?

  1. Treat the summer job like a “regular” job. That means dressing appropriately, showing up to the interview on time, and–if you get the job–giving it a fair chance before quitting if it’s not exactly what you pictured. Everyone you meet is a potential networking connection, and you want to be sure you’re giving a good impression from the start to finish.
  2. Send that thank you note and follow up. You had an interview; great! Now sit yourself down and email a thank note within 24 hours (i.e., before you forget). When it comes to following up with the hiring manager and they said they’ll let you know in a week–and don’t–don’t be afraid to call them after that week has gone by.
  3. Apply to a ton of places. Not sure what you want for a career yet? Don’t limit yourself to just one type of job at one type of place. Broaden your horizons for a greater chance of getting a job to bite. One high school grad applied to a bookstore, a blood donor center, a medical college, and a whole host of other places. He really wants the bookstore job, but is leaving his options open just in case.
  4. Go for an internship. Whether you’ve always known what you want to be when you grow up or you’re still deciding among possibilities, now’s the time to get internships within your potential career path(s). Some are unpaid, true, but can offer college credit or other benefits as compensation–not to mention contacts for future networking purposes.
  5. Keep your eyes open. If you’re really not sure what you want to do, just think about what you like to do for fun. Love computer games? Try for graphic design or software development. Concerned about the environment? See what your national park or reserve has to offer.

What tips do you have for getting a good summer job?

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