For teenagers, summer jobs offer way more than just a paycheck. They’re the first stepping stones on any career path, where you start to establish a reputation for yourself as an employee and build contacts that will help you in the future.
The experience you’ll gain is invaluable. You’ll learn about working with others and being a strong employee. You’ll also discover what kind of work makes you happy and what tasks you’d rather avoid in the future.
Follow these eight tips to help you find—and succeed in—your seasonal job.
Start With an Attitude Check
The right attitude will affect your job search, interview and performance on the job. Everyone loves a paycheck, but if you go into the process thinking only of money, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Success on the job comes from having enthusiasm about what you are doing and keeping a positive attitude. In addition to what you can gain from a job, think about what you can offer your prospective employer. A job well done will lead to big benefits in the future—strong references, more people who know you and the kind of person you are, and new opportunities. Every day may not be easy or even fun, but your attitude about it will make all the difference.
Define Your Search Parameters
Consider your interests and the type of work you would enjoy. For example, do you like being around people or working behind the scenes? Then think about the practicalities: how will you get to work? If you are driving, you don’t want to spend the bulk of your paycheck on gas money, so define how far you are willing to commute. If a family member will give you rides, consult with them on their availability.
Spread the Word
Let your parents, their friends, other adults and even your friends know you are looking for work. If you have set your sights on a specific employer, mention it; you may know someone who has contacts there and would be happy to mention you to them.
Prepare a Resume
While many summer jobs require applications, set yourself apart by adding a professional looking resume. This is also a must-have when approaching employers who may not have an application or a posted opening.
Brush up on Your Interview Skills
First impressions are formed quickly and are difficult to change, so go in prepared. Study up on what to expect when you interview for a job. Keep your cell phone off and out of sight; this isn’t a time to be fiddling with or glancing at a device. Few would expect a teenager to show up in a suit, but do put some thought into creating a professional look. This means no shorts or T-shirts. For boys, khaki pants and a button-down cotton shirt project a good image. For girls, slacks and a blouse or sweater set.
A job interview gives a hiring manager the chance to size you up, but remember you are also there to determine if the job is a good fit for you. Go in with good questions: what does the job entail? What are the responsibilities and skills required? However, be careful. If one of your first questions is “How much do you pay?” you are jeopardizing your chances. It may surprise you that the job interview isn’t a good time to discuss pay; that is a discussion for after they make you a job offer. The main goal for both parties in an interview is gathering information to make a good decision.
Discuss Your Availability
You may have sports practices or a family vacation planned for the summer but you still want to work. These other commitments are not necessarily deal breakers; just be upfront about them in your interview. Be clear about when you are available to work and show a strong interest in working when you can.
Stick With It
Once you accept a job, stay with it. This goes back to having the right attitude. There will be times when your friends are going to a concert or taking a trip to the lake and you want to go, but you’re scheduled to work. Remember that it’s a trade-off; you are saying no to some things, but you are working toward other things that will help you in the future, like a good relationship with your employer (and a future reference). You might temporarily give up some freedom or fun, but you will gain much more—a paycheck, good habits and the start of a solid work history that will open doors for you in the future.
You may also like Job Interview Etiquette: Why Were You Fired? For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on Huff Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.