If you're a college student, you probably need a job for the summer. But the deadline for high-paying (and highly competitive) positions has essentially passed. An unpaid internship is out of the question. What do you do?
It's an issue many students will face as summer nears. Those three months offer the opportunity to earn much-needed cash. It's also a critical time to build job skills.
"Employers won't look at someone without real-world experience," said Phil Gardner, director of research at the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.
But while surveys show that the great majority of formal internship programs are paid, some don't offer a paycheck. Employers may work with your college to ensure that you receive academic credit for your efforts, but such an arrangement often means you end up paying a tuition fee for the "course."
Clearly, not everyone can afford to both pass up a salary and pay tuition. If you fall into that camp, here are some job-hunting tips that might improve your bank account and your resume.
Talk to friends and relatives.
Like any good job hunt, you have to network. And there's no better source to tap than friends and family. For one, they may have many contacts in all different kinds of industries, and they also can vouch for you to a potential employer.
Use the career center.
Margaret Dikel, author and Webmaster of the Riley Guide (www.rileyguide.com), an online directory of career and employment resources, recommends heading to your school's career center. "Even if employers are not doing interviews for internships, they are still calling and posting summer jobs there," she said.
And not all employers have stopped hiring interns. Some companies allow you to submit applications well into spring. Red Lobster, the seafood restaurant chain, for example, has a rolling deadline for its management internship program. (And not only are the positions paid, you get a free meal every day you work.)
Search the Web strategically.
There are a number of online job boards dedicated to internships, part-time jobs and summer work.
Find sites through www.quintcareers.com/grad-internships.html. One link, internzoo.com, listed an internship at a summer-long music festival in the Catskills of New York. (If you don't apply, perhaps I will.)
You may also have luck if you focus your search by industry.
For example, Dikel said the federal government offers many paid opportunities, both in Washington and locally. Look for positions at StudentJobs.gov and www.DCJobSource.com.
Make the most of your job.
Ideally, you'd find an internship or summer job in the field in which you want to pursue a career. If, however, you end up waiting tables or caddying for golfers, you can still use the experience to impress a future boss.
Do a good job.
One reason internships are so critical to a resume is they offer proof you're familiar with the world of work. A summer job can do the same.
"Work experience is work experience," said Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, an online job search resource. "Having at least some jobs while you're in school shows you can show up on time to the job."
Take the initiative.
You may be sweeping floors or using the cash register, but don't let that stop you from speaking up and pitching in. You could, for instance, ask to shadow your manager for a day or offer to, say, help arrange a window display.
"There are a lot of ways to develop transferable skills even in a job that's not in your career path," said Alexandra Levit, author of the coming book, How'd You Score that Gig? She added: "Taking initiative is one skill that all employers value."
Carolyn Bigda writes for Tribune Media Services.