Instead of just kicking back and relaxing, many high school students take it upon themselves to utilize the break and get a summer job. There are several benefits to getting a summer job as a high school student, the most obvious being extra income. But getting a summer job is a great way to learn workplace skills including communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and accountability. Plus, this experience will highlight these skills in your college applications, especially if you continue to stick with the same job.

The question is, how do you get a summer job? The first step is to create a resume that caters to the type of job you’re hoping to get. For example, many high schoolers work in food service, and while you may not have prior restaurant or cafe experience, employers in this field recognize that there are other traits and experiences high schoolers may have that will help them succeed in the role.

“A lot of times students will put activities they participated in at school [on their resume]. So, maybe they’re a ticket-taker at the theater or help out at a snack bar, they might include babysitting or pet sitting. Just whatever they’ve done since they’ve been in school that can be applied,” said Ron Engebretson, owner of Erik’s Deli Cafe in Roseville, CA.

Any experience with responsibility or customer service you can provide can show an employer that you can easily be trained for the job and the rest will come naturally. Students can also include a “skills” section on their resume that features personal traits. 

When Myles Dornhofer applied for his first restaurant job as a host and busser at Sushi Lounge, a Japanese restaurant in Point Loma, CA, he emphasized his applicable personality skills on his resume and when interviewing for the job.

“I emphasized my ability to work with people and my communications skills. In the restaurant business I’ve learned you really need to be able to talk to people and relay information quickly,” said Dornhofer.

Dornhofer found that these people skills are vital in the restaurant industry both when interviewing for the role and when he started working at Sushi Lounge.

“As someone who’s first starting and wanting the other servers to tip you out eventually, you have to be able to have conversations with them and get to know them. You have to be able to build a mutual respect,” said Dornhofer.

Engebretson shared that he posts job openings on the job website, Indeed. So, once you have applied for a job and been proactive in communicating with the business, you may then engage in your first job interview. During this interview, Engebretson focuses on how candidates present themselves, regardless of work experience.

“For me, it’s mostly about [a candidate’s] personality and willingness to learn. My son just graduated high school this year, so he’s been working here since and then I’ve hired on a few of his friends. Here, everything’s pretty easily trainable. As long as they’re willing to learn it and have the drive to do the job, the experience part really isn’t that important to me,” said Engebretson.

Ron shared that the key personality traits he looks for in new employees include being outgoing, friendly, and able to move at a quick pace.

“If someone is willing to do that, move fast and work hard, everything else is teachable,” said Engebretson.

Of course, many employers don’t want to hire a student if they’re only available for the summer. If you’re able to continue to work after school once school does start, even if it’s only a few days per week, this will be a major bonus for an employer.

“It’s kind of hard now as far as hiring students because if a lot of them go back to school and you hire them now, by the time you go through a training process you might only have them for a month or two. If they’re going to leave when school starts back up then I have to start all over again. So I ask if they’re going to be available after school. With seniors, it’s easier because a lot of times their days end early, so they’re able to work the closing shift,” said Engebretson.

On the other hand, employers also see benefits to hiring younger employees who haven’t worked in other restaurants, as all restaurants do things differently and it’s easier in some ways to start fresh with a new employee.

“[First-time employees] don’t have any bad habits. If an employee has worked somewhere else and they’ve been allowed to do whatever they please, or there’s no consequences for things they’ve done and then they bring it here and it carries over, that can be a problem,” said Engebretson.

Engebretson shared that one of the main things he values in an employee is reliability, so it’s important to assure your new employer that you will be reliable, and live up to this claim.

“In this day in age the biggest thing is to be reliable and on time, and to show up to your shifts ready to go,” said Engebretson.

Even though a service or other entry-level job may not be related to what you want to do as a career, a student summer job can provide more than just extra income.

“After college I’ll want to get a job related to my major, and there’s going to be interviews. I had to interview for my position [at Sushi Lounge] so I feel like it was all a small version of the things I’m going to be doing in the future,” said Dornhofer.

Dornhofer also shared how the people skills he is acquiring being a host and busser at Sushi Lounge will help him become more well-rounded both as a person and an employee.

Whether you decide to go into food service, childcare, lifeguarding, or something else as a student, an employer simply wants to see enthusiasm, responsibility, and reliability in a potential employee. Showing that you’re a hard worker and can be counted on to learn your job tasks and perform them will help you land the job, and demonstrating these traits will help you keep the job.

If you’re going to be a junior in high school in the fall, you’ll also want to check out this Summer To-Do List for High School Juniors.