Keys to beating the summer job blues

Website offers ways to maximize job search for high school students

The summer job season is fast approaching, and teens everywhere are updating their resumés, preparing for employment fairs and responding to want ads.

But while many employers hire extra staff for the season, the search is often frustrating and fruitless for high school students.

The summer unemployment rate for students is high—Statistics Canada reports that last year, it was 17.2%. As well, high schoolers have a tougher time finding work than college and university students: according to Statistics Canada, last summer, those age 15 to 16 experienced 30.7% unemployment, and for those age 17 to 19, it was 16.4%, while for those age 20 to 24, the rate was a much lower 10.3%

Penny Golin knows first-hand how hard it can be to score summer work. Like many teens, the 15-year-old is looking for a job to gain experiences and skills that may serve her career goal—in her case, becoming a graphic designer. Of course, she also wants to save money for university, and for some current living expenses.

She has submitted many resumés to fashion retailers, day camps, an amusement park, a country club—but has received very few offers.

“It’s disappointing, but at this age, it’s really hard, because you don’t have a lot of work experience,” said Golin.

That classic Catch-22 — you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience until you get a job —  is just one challenge job-hunting high school students face, says Kathy Dubeau, a guidance and co-operative education teacher at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. Others, she says, include not knowing where or how to look for jobs, and not having a current or effective resumé.

Getting ahead in the competitive summer job market ultimately means being well prepared. School- and career-planning service has a new feature called Experiences and Resumé Builder that makes it easy to document accomplishments and prepare resumés.

Available for free to students at public and Catholic schools wherever is offered — the service is subscribed to by 1,500 middle and high schools within 40 school boards across the country — the tool lets users record experiences, achievements and skills that may one day help them find work, such as class projects, school clubs, hobbies, volunteer gigs and part-time or casual jobs.

“There’s no need to try to figure it all out at the last minute — that’s when things get missed,” said Gil Silberstein, president of “With this tool, you can record every skill-developing experience or responsibility you have as you progress through middle and high school, and when you’re ready to look for work, you can just click a button to generate a resumé.”

Dubeau offers the following tips to high school students trying to find summer work:

1. Have a current resumé ready at all times — make it well organized and professional looking.

2. Know how to write an effective cover letter.

3. Use the “hidden job market” — personal networks and contacts — as many jobs aren’t publicly advertised.

4. Brush up on potential interview questions.

5. Have a suitable and well-fitting outfit ready for interviews.

6. Become familiar with job search websites, such the Federal Student Work Experience Program.


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