by Matt Showley, CFP®
“I’m deeply sorry to have to tell you that our hotel is overbooked and we no longer have a room available for your reservation tonight.”
Imagine hearing this upon your arrival at a beautiful La Jolla hotel for your family vacation. Now imagine being the employee who has to deliver the news. My very first job immediately after earning an undergraduate business degree was as a front desk clerk at a well known hotel in La Jolla. I knew hospitality was not going to be my career choice, but I wanted to work with the public to gain experience. Having to tell a family that they didn’t have a room for the night at 10:30 pm is an experience I will always remember.
Summer jobs and internships are about gaining work experience, sampling your interests and building your resume. Many people will tell you that they had quite a few jobs before they found their career, so it’s a great opportunity to try something out for the summer. If you can get paid for it – that’s even better!
Below are some tips for anyone looking for a summer job. These could apply to high school age students, college age students, or to recent college graduates.
A great way to gain entry into a professional field is through an internship. While some offer modest pay, many do not. These are excellent resume builders and you can get valuable insight into a career that interests you. If you opt for an internship, ask as many questions as you can of your supervisors and try to “get in the room” where the action happens at that business. Even if you don’t say a word, seeing and hearing what really goes on in a professional environment can be quite a valuable experience.
Finding a summer job is not easy. Don’t be afraid to tap into your personal network of family, friends, and teachers or professors to find a job. Tell the person what you are interested in and ask if they know anyone who is in that field. A large percentage of jobs “in the real world” are acquired this way, so start networking early. It is a valuable skill for just about any career.
Manage Your Time
You only have summer breaks for a limited number of years; before you know it, you are out of school and in the work force full-time. If you have a summer break from May through August, be sure to set aside a few weeks for yourself and take a trip, visit college friends in their home town, or stay at home with your parents. I guarantee they miss you, and you’ll get some home cooked meals too.
If you are in high school or a freshman in college, don’t be afraid to take a fun job rather than a career oriented job. Just because you want to be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or an artist, doesn’t mean that every job you take must be working toward that goal. Don’t be afraid to take a job that looks like it would be fun or educational for you. I’ll bet you’ll still learn quite a few things that you’ll eventually take with you to your career.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your generation is the most technologically adept and that represents value to your employer. A great way to make an immediate impact on your summer job or internship is by suggesting ways to improve a business through technology. Likewise, if you are tech savvy or interested in software, apps, or web-development, don’t be afraid to dedicate yourself for part of the summer creating your first application or prototype, as it could turn into something special. If not, trying it out will still be a valuable experience.
Most summer jobs and internships do not offer healthcare benefits and other employer perks. So be sure that you have health coverage from another source, such as your parent’s coverage, coverage through your school, or through the healthcare exchange.
One downside of getting paid for a summer job is taxes. If this is your first time paying taxes, then let this be part of your education as well. Your employer will withhold some of your pay and send it to the government on your behalf. If they don’t withhold enough, or anything at all, then you may need to pay taxes on your own later in the year – so you’ll need to set aside some money for taxes. Alternatively, your employer may withhold too much in taxes, and then you may be due a refund – so plan accordingly and don’t be afraid to ask for help. A benefit of having W-2 wages is being able to fund a retirement plan early in your life. Read on….
Even though you’ll work hard for whatever money you earn and may have the urge to spend it, one idea is to set aside some of your earnings to invest in a Roth IRA. At a young age, a Roth IRA can grow for decades and could be the beginning of a nice nest egg later in life. Consider setting aside up to $5,500 of your income for a Roth IRA contribution. You’ll thank yourself later.
Enjoy your time over the summer and make the best of each opportunity. For me, some of the early jobs I had during the summer or right out of college had nothing to do with my current career; however, I learned skills that I still use every day. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “bad job” when you are trying something for the summer in high school or college. At the very least, you’ll learn what you don’t like, but hopefully you’ll find your passion and be directed toward something that you really enjoy. Good Luck!
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