Whether it’s flipping burgers, working retail, working in an office, or singing songs as a camp counsellor, summer jobs are the norm for students. The four months following the end of the winter term in April can be filled with summer classes to fast-track to graduation and/or working jobs often completely unrelated to their field of study just to have some money coming into their account. The cost of living forces students to take on jobs, whether they like them or not, in order to make ends meet.
In a study based on data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey mentioned in a Maclean’s article titled “Study shows value of summer after-school jobs”, researchers note that 15-year-olds who had worked summer or part-time jobs with between 33 to 43 hours every week were better suited for their careers 10 years later. Although the unemployment rate among 15- to 24-year-olds was a fairly high 13.3%, the study notes that working 15-year-olds got a headstart developing necessary job-hunting skills and references.
Danielle Elson, a fourth-year student majoring in anthropology with a double minor in history and English, has worked a part-time job since high school and worked two jobs this past summer. “I had already been working at the movie theatre and Starbucks before summer began,” she says. “I only intend on keeping Starbucks during the school year because it would be too much for me otherwise, and they offer more flexibility.
Elson felt that her part-time and summer jobs weren’t related to her field, but she was able to identify some skills she gained by working there. “I didn’t think that these part-time jobs would help me in the future, as I plan on working either in public relations or community outreach after graduation, but they did provide me with customer service and problem-solving experience,” she said.
Meanwhile, third-year sociology and professional writing student Lauren Macri says she didn’t find landing a summer job was as easy as it seemed. “For the summer I worked at my church, planning and organizing youth and children’s events,” she said. “Finding a job was very difficult, and this was the only interview I managed to get after applying to over 20 jobs. I just saw it as a summer job doing something I enjoy while also making money to pay for school.”
Macri is interested in writing and is still deciding on her future career, and isn’t eager to devote energy to part-time work during the school year. “I couldn’t keep this job during the year as it was only a summer position for university students. But even if I could have kept it I wouldn’t have,” she sad. “I like to focus all my time and energy on my classes and studies when I’m in school.”
Kayla Sousa, the outreach and promotions assistant at the UTM Career Centre, believes that no “resume-builder” should be considered wasteful.
“Students who gain any experience throughout their stay at university are likely to benefit greatly down the road. Working on campus part-time, volunteering, or obtaining summer employment are amazing options,” she says. “Those experiences add to student resumes, while also being largely manageable.”
Sousa also encourages students to talk to company representatives at the Get Experience Fair or the Get Hired Fair on campus. “Even connecting with reps that seem unrelated can be a great idea,” she says. “If you want to be an accountant, don’t walk by a retailer’s table because it seems different from your field. That retailer could have a position in their accounting department, and even if they don’t, there still may be great opportunities to build communication or teamwork skills that can be used going forward in accounting. It’s important to ask questions.”
Summer jobs are beneficial whether you’re 15 or 25. Of course, not everyone will get their dream job right away—it takes time and hard work to get there. As Sousa puts it, “At the end of the day, finding some kind of experience that you find valuable is definitely worth it. Many employers like seeing that their future employees are well-rounded and have spent time both in and outside of the classroom developing skills.”