Hitting the Pavement

As the school year ends, some suggestions to share with your child on how to snag a summer job.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Jeannie Doran

Now is the time when thousands of high school and college students in the Valley launch their searches for a summer job—and whether paid or unpaid—it ain’t easy.

“High school students run up against age limits,” says Jennifer Simpson, Director of College Counseling at Campbell Hall School in Studio City. “They’re often competing with older college students or adults.” 

Here are a few job search tips from Simpson and some others in-the-know.
Cast a Wide Net 
Apply to many places. Never limit yourself to one or two favorites. Target businesses that have seasonal work, like ice cream, yogurt and bake shops, and companies that you know hire teenagers and students. Don’t be dissuaded when you walk into a fancy retail shop with all adult employees. Sometimes these stores have stock boys/girls. 

Network, Network, Network
Students may have more contacts than they realize. Ask friends who are older and adults who may own businesses. Go to your school’s counseling office, which may maintain a list of jobs and internships. Talk to people at your church or synagogue, even at a yoga class. “Think creatively,” says educational planner Stephanie Mead, founder of The Collegiate Edge in Sherman Oaks. “I encourage students to think about the jobs they’re interested in and who they know who works in that field.” 

The Resume
Though most employers don’t expect students to have a very deep, extensive resume, applicants should prepare a semblance of a first resume, which describes any prior jobs, community service activities and academics, even a GPA if it’s good. If you can find people to write recommendations on your behalf, bring copies with you on a job interview.

Walk the Walk
If there’s a particular retail store or place you want to work, wear an outfit that that makes it look like you already work there. This is especially true for retail stores like Brandy Melville, Free People and Urban Outfitters, all of which market their own distinctive style. “We definitely like to hire people who have compatible looks,” confirms Hunter Treuhaft, manager of Brandy Melville in Studio City.

Oldies But Goodies
While a high-profile job at a studio or talent agency may be desirable for its “cool factor,” classic summer jobs can teach students the value of earning a buck and, if one is lucky, translate into a terrific college essay. The Collegiate Edge’s Mead cites one of her applicants who waitressed for the summer and was inspired to write an essay on how the experience forever changed her perception of people who serve her. “There’s a lot to be said for what may be learned scooping ice cream, walking a dog or mowing lawns for a summer job,” says Mead.

It’s All in The Presentation
In a job interview, remember that you’re presenting yourself to professionals, not to other students. Be mindful of how you come off and will be perceived, and also what the interviewer is looking for. Consult with parents and teachers about questions to ask. Exhibit a confident handshake and strong sense of energy. 

While it’s tempting for high school students to think of what plays well vis-a-vis college admissions, very few institutions are, in fact, looking for people who take a summer job because it looks good on their application. “That level of strategy just doesn’t cut it anymore,” says Campbell Hall’s Simpson. “Look for a job in an area that truly interests you. You’re more appealing if you’re coming from a place that is authentic and organic.”