Tips for teens looking for summer jobs

May 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

A summer job is more than just mowing lawns or flipping burgers; it is a chance to make connections that will prove helpful throughout your career, and in this flooded market, students need to start their summer job search now. Here are some tips on landing that job from Tom Gimbel, founder of The LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm based in Chicago. Start NOW

Now, right now. Go. It's never too early to begin your summer job search. Whether you plan on going home for the summer, traveling out of state or setting up shop on-campus, it's important to start researching potential summer employment now. Target companies in your area and contact them directly inquiring about summer help. Reach out to local staffing and recruiting firms regarding project work. Go to the local library to peruse posted flyers. Wait until June to search for a summer job and you may find yourself holding down your parents' couch instead of building your resume during the summer months.

Cast a Wiiiiide Net

Everyone should know you're looking for summer employment including your family, friends, friends' parents, parents' friends, professors, advisors, old coaches and teachers, your family doctor, the grocery store clerk, you get the idea. The more people who know you're looking for a job the more quickly you will secure one.

Inform your contacts on what your ideal job is and sell them on why you should be hired. When selling yourself to your network include information like major, year in school, previous relevant work experience, interest in the company, industry or position, work schedule flexibility and positive attitude. The more your network knows about what you want in a summer job and why, the easier it will be for them to be an effective mouthpiece for your job search.

Don't Play Hard to Get

In this economy, don't make employers come to you. Hiring managers are barraged by hundreds of resumes, voicemails and emails barraging hiring managers; don't make them work to find you.

  • Keywords are Key. If you see an opportunity that interests you, and for which you're qualified, study the job description. Plug keywords used in the job description into your resume, where they apply. Utilizing keywords will make your resume easier to find for potential employers, and will increase the chances of your application moving forward in the process.
  • Speak Up. After applying to a position online, call the hiring manager the next day to introduce yourself and express your interest in the opening at their organization.
  • Respect the Process. A timely call and email following an interview or meeting is encouraged and smart. If done tactfully and confidently, your call will be viewed as eager and motivated, not desperate or disrespectful. Keep in mind, however, there is a fine line between persistently professional, and annoying. Don't bombard employers with calls and emails. Feeling a bit desperate is understandable in this economy, but don't reveal this to a potential employer by flooding their inbox. Disrespect for an employer's process is the easiest way to turn him or her off.
  • Send a Thank You. Remember to send a personalized thank you note, handwritten and emailed, immediately after each meeting or interview (phone or in-person). This extra step shows attention to detail, the ability to follow-up and interest in the opportunity. Set yourself apart from your competition by taking the time and effort on this simple, but effective, personal touch.
  • Be Flexible

    Flexibility is a key trait in a new hire, regardless of position title or industry. Many employers are doing more with less, and hiring managers are seeking professionals who are open to wearing multiple hats in a new position. Employers need professionals who are ready and willing to get their hands dirty, and being open to a variety of tasks and roles within a company will make any job seeker attractive to a potential employer.

  • Offer to take on new tasks. Show your flexibility by offering to take on a variety of assignments. Be open to new experiences and make sure your interviewer can sense your excitement and willingness to take risks in a different role.
  • Cross train yourself. When researching the company, learn about multiple departments so you are informed of the variety of work within the organization. Even though you are applying for a specific position, make sure you understand the big picture. If your interviewer thinks you may be better fit for a different role, it will help to be knowledgeable about other departments.
  • Highlight past flexibility. Prepare to talk about situations that exemplify your flexibility and variety of work. When asked to describe your last job, highlight the diverse experience you had or tell a concise story that shows how you effectively juggled tasks in different departments.
  • Target Internships

    Even in this stringent market, many companies continue to offer summer internships to eager college students. Do your research on the target companies for which you'd like to work and inquire about summer internship programs, however, be sure to remain open to companies and industries outside your ideal. Internships are a hot commodity for college students, and the candidate pool will be competitive, so be sure to maintain an open mind and attitude to all opportunities. Don't expect to get paid for your summer internship. Many employers are cutting back budgets for these types of programs, and landing internship experience is priceless, regardless of the immediate monetary rewards.

    Don't Treat it Like "Just Another Summer Job"

    Yes, your summer job may not be directly congruent with your long-term career goals; however, the contacts you meet now will prove valuable partners in the future. Treat every interview, every interaction with employers and every hour of your work day as you would a "real" job. Your performance, attitude and professionalism during summer employment are a reflection of you and your work ethic, no matter how irrelevant your summer job may seem. Make a good impression on your summer employer, and you will find yourself with a valuable resource with whom to reconnect after graduation.


    Tom Gimbel is the founder and CEO of The LaSalle Network, a $20 million staffing and recruiting firm based in Chicago. Prior to starting The LaSalle Network in 1998, Tom spent several years in sales and marketing at both national and local service organizations. At 26 years old, Tom left his employer to create the first Chicago firm to offer employment solutions to the accounting and finance world. Today, LaSalle Network boasts three offices, over 75 employees, 2,000 clients and over 15,000 placed candidates. LaSalle Network has grown 600% this decade and 5 percent in 2009, landing them on the Inc. 500/5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies.

    Tom was nominated for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award, and in 2001, LaSalle Network landed a spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's "Hot 100" list. Tom holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado and is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Jobs For Youth, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that helps young adults from low-income families find employment and prepare them for the working world. Tom is also an active member in the Young Presidents' Organization, American Staffing Association and Entrepreneurs' Organization.

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