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Long gone are the lazy days of summer lounging at the beach, spending days at the mall, and staying up late on warm, muggy nights.

Now as you inch closer to graduation, every year it’s all about finding that perfect summer job—something related to the career you want to pursue.

The four-month break is a great time for students to look for jobs where they can apply the knowledge and skills they’ve learned during school, says Susan McKay, career counsellor at the University of Regina.

Try to find some related summer work where you can get some experience that will be valuable.

To nab a good summer job, McKay says to start looking as early as December because there will be more opportunities available for students.

Gain valuable experience in chosen field

Getting a summer job in the field you’re interested in is a great way to expand your skill set in your chosen field.

“[Summer jobs] help build your experience in your field,” says McKay. “Especially if you are considering, as well as applying to a professional program down the road, having some related experience seriously strengthens applications.”

If you don’t find a job that’s directly associated with your chosen career path, finding a similar job where you can learn and develop the skills you need is also valuable.

For example, if you want to have a career in marketing or sales, you can work at a retail store. There, you’ll be able to test out and improve your selling talents, learn more about consumers and businesses, and develop your interpersonal skills.

Test out the waters

Summer jobs are also a way for students to test whether a certain career is right for them.

It’s not always the case that someone gets the perfect summer job, so sometimes the best alternative is to think about your goals for the summer. What skills do you want to focus on and develop? Which new skills do you want to learn?

“Try to find some related summer work where you can get some experience that will be valuable,” says McKay. “This will inform you how well this workplace and field fits with your unique aptitudes, abilities, values, and motivations.”

So if you’re thinking, “Should I go into education?” the best approach would be to find work at parks, community or recreation centres, or summer camps. Only then will you know if education is a right fit for you.

Other options

Sometimes we want to find summer jobs that are meaningful, but our budgets just won’t let us. Some students face the dilemma of choosing between a summer job with better pay but not related to their career field, or a job that is related but doesn’t pay as well.

McKay says students should consider doing volunteer work on the side for the experience. Through volunteering, students are still gaining the necessary skills they would gain from a real job without sacrificing money or skills.

McKay emphasizes that no matter what type of work students find over the summer, they should value that experience as a way to learn more about themselves, and to recognize the types of skills they have.

Photos: Siri Stafford/Thinkstock

summer work, career planning, University of Regina