The odds are tough, but there's still time for a summer job

Posted by Michael Rainsford in

The last month since finishing the summer term has no doubt flown by, but you still have over two months until you have to once again pack those bags in the annual migration of overloaded cars and teary-eyed parents. A recent survey by The Student Room has revealed students are struggling more than ever to find summer jobs, despite the majority expressing an interest in taking up some form of summer work.

In a poll of 529 students, the leading student-oriented forum The Student Room found that 86% of students would like to work this summer, while 53% of those polled cannot find a summer job. 79% believe that there are too few jobs available. Whether for paid or unpaid work, it is clear that the summer job market for students is fierce and competitive. Students are increasingly aware that a CV with no work experience will put one at a significant disadvantage in the graduate job market.

To this end, you need to give yourself a fighting chance to attain some form of work. Following these steps and beat the odds this summer.

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.

Instead of being just part of the 86% that want a job this summer, be part of the 47% that actually get one. This JUST DO IT attitude will stand you in good stead for future graduate roles ahead.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons