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San Diego State University

@State - the SDSU Student Newsletter

Making the Most of Your Summer Job

photo: female student talking to guy at career fair

SDSU Career Services Associate Directors Rosa Moreno and Sandra Williams answer your top questions about landing a summer job, and getting more out of it than just a paycheck.

Q: What are some common misconceptions students have about summer jobs?

Rosa: That there are no jobs. The economy is improving, and there are many opportunities for paid positions, paid and non-paid internships, volunteer work and community service projects.

Sandra: A common misconception is that summer jobs are only seasonal positions. That’s really not the case. There are many employers who will begin what they perceive to be an ongoing internship in the summer. A campaign for recruitment may start with a summer job or an internship, and it’s one of employers’ favorite strategies for recruiting full-time employees. There are many different versions of what may be called a “summer job.”

Q: How can students capitalize on a summer job and turn it into a more meaningful opportunity?

Rosa: Let’s say you’re working at Qualcomm, and you have the benefit of working around such great talent. Pick someone there who would be willing to be your mentor, who can help you navigate the position you’re in. Or interview and gain insight from the person in the position you aspire to have in the future. There is no experience at any summer job that you’re not going to gain some knowledge, even if it’s sitting at the front desk.

Sandra: Turning a summer job into a more meaningful opportunity all depends on how you conduct yourself in that job. If you understand how important it is to use common courtesy and to be helpful, people are going to remember that. If they have another position in that organization, they may tell you about that opening before it’s even posted because they know you and your work ethic.

Q: What factors should students take into consideration when deciding whether or not to work this summer?

Rosa: Be thoughtful about what you can manage in the summer. If you’re going to summer school, do you really have the time to commit to a job? Know the answer to that question ahead of time.

Sandra: The last thing your employer wants to hear once you’ve accepted a position is “Oops, I’m going on vacation. I need 10 days off in July.” Don’t provide any surprises. Give the information upfront and be honest and open when you’re applying. Use common sense and make sure you know the job can fit into your calendar and your schedule, and be realistic.

Q: What are some alternatives for students who don’t want to commit to a job but still want to gain experience in their chosen career field?

Rosa: Volunteer at Balboa Park or the new library downtown. Complete community service projects at YMCA, hospitals. Never forget the opportunities right here at SDSU, too.

Sandra: Identify a professional organization or association related to your major or your future career. Then identify some community service activities that those organizations are doing, and reach out to see if you can participate. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they’re going to say “of course!” There is always going to be folks involved in those activities that work in the companies or positions you’re interested in. 

Q: San Diego is a major summertime tourist destination. What does that mean for students in terms of local job opportunities?

Sandra: There are more people here during the vacation season. That influx has an impact across the local economy. Just about any business that a student is interested in working at is going to experience that impact.

Rosa: Between hotels, beaches, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, and the convention center, there’s great opportunity in San Diego for summer employment There’s an array of options, it’s just a matter of being thoughtful and taking the time to explore what’s available and what’s going to benefit the student in the long run.

Q: The job market for even the most “casual” summer positions can be extremely competitive. What can students do to get a leg up on the competition?

Sandra: Do more than the online application process. Take advantage of networking opportunities like career fairs. If a student identifies an area they’re interested in, they need to stay in touch with what’s going on there. They need to have a following on LinkedIn, and they need to get up and out and meet people beyond social media. You have to get up and go where the employers are. Also, make sure everyone you know and everyone you meet knows you’re looking for a job.

Rosa: If you’re going to an event, and you know an employer is going to be there, be ready with your resume. If not that, give them your student business card. Have a natural, informal presentation or elevator speech ready for those employers when they ask about you and what you’re interested in.

Q: Many students will need to scale back on work hours or stop working completely when the fall semester begins. What are some specific ways students can leave on a positive note and keep the door open for future opportunities or references?

Rosa: Say thank you. Let them know what a wonderful time you had there. Go to a casual lunch with your mentor to let them know you appreciated the time they took with you.

Sandra: If your employer didn’t have a conversation with you in the beginning about when your last day will be, you’ll want to take them aside a few weeks before you’re planning on leaving the position to give them notice. Also, it’s not always easy to handle the transition if an employer is interested in keeping you past the summer or even hiring you full time, but you’re ready to move on. Be courteous and genuine about communicating that the position isn’t the best fit for you. Then, see if they’d be open to introductions to other students who may be interested in the job.