Why should I consider a summer job?

Posted by Michael Rainsford in ,

The exam season is in full swing and the end of the academic year just a stone's throw away. No more getting up at 5am to cram for that morning exam, and your evenings will soon be yours once again. The longer than 3-month summer holiday is probably what is getting you through these final exams, but if your calendar for the vacation period extends only to lie-ins and mum's cooking then it is high time to start doing some planning. As a university student, you are used to being active, whether through your academic course, the sports teams you play for or even your demanding social calendar. Before long, you will be itching to break the monotony of the summer period and to do this, planning must start now.

Whether your goal is to earn some much needed cash, or simply to volunteer your time to a charitable initiative or two, a summer job will enhance your employability upon graduation and provide you with some much needed experience of the workplace. If the job is paid, this is a great opportunity to earn some cash, perhaps pay off the overdraft balance that you built up or even add to your savings for a rainy day. A summer job or two on your CV could be much more advantageous than a long list of GCSE results you earned 5 years before graduating. It shows that you are hard working, driven, and possess initiative.

If you already have summer holidays booked by this stage, continue to read on. So long as your summer employer is aware of your availability they can make an informed choice when hiring you and will account for your absent periods accordingly. Should you now have made the decision that a summer job isn't such a bad idea after all, the next step is to know where to look.

Look beyond your local paper

If you are looking for work local to your home over the summer period, then step one is to make a list of all suitable places and either call them up, or better still, visit them with a CV and ask whether they will be recruiting for the summer period. Calling or visiting directly highlights your enthusiasm and personable nature. Should this method not prove fruitful, you have a wealth of alternatives to work your way through. Do research on the web and fill out online application forms. Contact recruitment and temping agencies, and remember, the earlier you do this the better, as before long they will bring opportunities your way. No doubt you will turn down a number of the opportunities presented to you, however, each round of filtering is an opportunity for the recruiter to get to know you better, increasing the chances of them introducing you to a job that fits your requirement.

If recruitment agencies aren't enough, you still have many more options. There are a range of websites that offer job postings. The website E4S is particularly interesting as it is targeted to the student job market. Aside from this, Student Job, Just Student Jobs, Indeed and Fish4Jobs will all be helpful. Beyond this, the classified section of your local paper, and your nearest Jobcentre Plus will all prove valuable resources.

I'm sold... what job can I do?

Step one is to determine the reason for the summer job. If the job is to earn as much money as possible, then clearly you need to find jobs that pay in the upper range versus lower paid or volunteering alternatives. Next step is to consider what you want out of the experience. Do you want the role to be related to your course or future career path? If so, then your job search needs to be more targeted. However, if all you are looking for is general work experience, averting boredom and earning a wage, you need to consider the types of roles that are in seasonal demand over the summer period. Shops, hotel, summer camps, restaurants and holiday companies all hire extra staff over the summer to account for seasonal demand and cover for permanent employee holiday leave.

Should you wish to spend the summer outdoors, then summer camps and festivals are great options. Festivals will recruit early so don't delay. Aside from working and earning some money, you will be able to enjoy free music, potentially food, and some basic accommodation for the duration of the event. A good site for such work is Wikifestivals, but a simple Google search will reveal many other resources available to you. Another option should you wish to work outdoors is crop "picking" work on farms. Whilst unskilled, the work is hard and physically intensive, so it can provide a good opportunity to get fit over the summer months. The jobs tend to last a couple of weeks but certain specialist agencies will arrange for you to move around with the harvests. Such jobs are also good to consider amongst a group of friends.

Universities often hire over the summer, and you can either consider work at your current university, or enquire at institutions more local to you. Then there is office work. Whilst potentially more mundane than the alternatives, this type of work provides stability and good exposure to a general work environment. Most people go down the route of retail and leisure jobs, and these are perhaps the roles in most abundance. Retail and leisure opportunities span from your high street, to large shopping malls and even airports, theme parks and other tourist attractions.

Should working for/with somebody else not appeal to you, you can always consider jobs such as private tutoring. This is generally well paid and rewarding, and gives you an opportunity to teach a subject that you are familiar with and passionate about.

What will get me the job?

When embarking upon a job hunt it is important to be aware of the key skills and competencies that employers are looking for. Look out for StuRents' upcoming article on this topic later this week for more detail. A summer job will be less demanding on the application front and the majority will not require a finely tuned CV and cover letter. Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to practice and gain feedback on your efforts during the interview stage in preparation for full time jobs. As a basic rule, when applying for any summer job, you need to come across engaged and interested in what you are applying to do. A response of "to just earn some extra cash" to the question of "why do you want the job?" will rarely cut it, largely because somebody else has probably also applied and they have abided by these simple rules of engagement.

Show me the money!

All employers have to pay workers or employees the National Minimum Wage as set by the government. The current rates for an 18-20 year old is £5.03 per hour, rising to £6.31 at age 21 and over and you can find more details here. Some jobs will of course pay more than this. Roles in the services sector could provide the opportunity to earn tips. Whilst there is no legal obligation on employees to pass on tips, most do. A government issued Code of Best Practice states how employers should behave regarding tips, suggesting 70-90p in every pound should be passed onto employees.

Finally, tax is an essential consideration. If employed and paid a formal wage, your employer will sign you up to the PAYE system. This works on the assumption that your current earnings will continue for the entire tax year. Given that you will be working for a maximum of thee months, you are left wide open to being overtaxed and this is unavoidable. Should your income in the current tax year remain below the personal allowance (£10,000), you will receive all of your tax back. You can claim a refund on overpaid tax by contacting HMRC and they even have a dedicated section on tax for students. Separately, you will also have to pay National Insurance (and obtain a National Insurance Number should you not already have one), which entitles you to claim social security in future; state pension, unemployment benefit. Further details on National Insurance can be found here.

Finding seasonal work isn't always easy, and it involves a little more effort than getting up at midday and kicking back on the sofa for a marathon of daytime TV and Facebook. Nevertheless, having something to show for the summer other than sunburn and a larger waistline will help you to no end in preparation for graduate applications and interviews. At the very least, you will return to uni ready for freshers' week with a little more firepower in your pocket to prop up your favourite student bar.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons