Helping Young People Find Summer Jobs

by Christian Saint Cyr

While it’s just the third day of summer for many students, the window for finding summer jobs is quickly closing. According to a study by, summer job postings are up 18%, but those jobs are being filled quickly and employers become increasingly less likely to hire as summer proceeds.
For those of you who had a summer job growing up, this might seem second nature and yet increasingly fewer students are seeking out jobs. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, in 1986, 57% of youth aged 16-19 held summer jobs and that number has fallen to just 36%.
While many would say this is an erosion of work values, in many ways it’s just rethinking priorities.  In 1986, 12% of students participated in summer classes. This number has increased to 42% today.
The expectation has become for many parents that while jobs are great, education is more important.
This perspective often loses sight of the intangible benefits of a summer job. Jobs train young people in customer service, dealing with colleagues, problem solving, following instructions, taking initiative and maintaining high standards of quality and effort.
More importantly, finding work teaches young people about the importance of being independent and taking responsibility. When students are in school, it is the school’s responsibility to monitor and educate the student. In the workplace, the employee continues to work because their employer chooses to have them there. For the first time, young people are free of their parents’ influence and can prove themselves, even making mistakes they can learn from.
And while the opportunity for growth in their children may appeal to many parents, the value of work for young people themselves may be in the financial rewards. The minimum wage in BC is currently $10.85 per hour creating the opportunity for many workers to earn as much as $4,000 over the course of the summer. A student who starts working summers at the age of 15, could save as much as $17,000 by the time they start university.
In pursuing employment, young people should keep in mind the following considerations:
·         Prepare a Resume: Your resume is your calling card. Even if you’ve never held a job before, write about any situations where you’ve been given responsibilities. This can include babysitting, yard work, volunteer experience, chores, work experience and special projects.
·         Include a Cover Letter: Your resume is going to speak about your experience but your cover letter is a personal introduction where you can explain why you like the company, why you think you would be good at the job, and how the company will benefit from hiring you.
·         Complete Applications Thoroughly: Whether it’s paper or online, fill out your applications thoroughly. Often people are overlooked because they’ve said they’re only available limited hours; they specific only one job they’re interested in; or they provide little information about their skills and abilities.
·         Avoid Mistakes: Whether it’s your resume, cover letter or job application, employers are super conscious about mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. No employer likes to hire a ‘sloppy’ employee and what you write speaks volumes about you.
·         Take Short Term Training: Taking training such as Serving It Right, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), FOODSAFE and First Aid can not only demonstrate a commitment to ongoing training but also make you a much more qualified candidate.
·         Act Professional: When you are visiting an employer, dress professionally, keep your perfume or cologne to a minimum and act respectfully. Avoid busy times of the day such as lunch and try to visit the employer first thing in the morning, preferably on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Youth face multiple barriers to finding work such as a lack of experience, a lack of training and a general prejudice many employers have towards young people. This can be compounded by having English as a second language, a lack of transportation and perhaps a disability.
Finding a great young employee obviously presents benefits to employers but it can also be transformative for the employee. So many successful people tell me that their first jobs taught them about accountability, service and taking responsibility. This year’s summer job may be just an opportunity to earn some pocket money but the benefits can last well into the future.

Christian Saint Cyr is Publisher of the BC Labour Market Report and author of the BC Job Search Guide. Christian also provides Community Engagement Support for our Burnaby and Chilliwack Employment Service Centres and is the host of our ‘Getting Connected’ and ‘Interview Wednesdays’ sessions.

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