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Why It's Not Too Early To Start Looking For That Ideal Summer Job

03/03/2015 01:27 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

While it seems far too early to even begin thinking about summer vacations, now is the time for students to start looking for summer jobs. Last year we looked at how to find summer employment, including how to create a strong social media presence. This year we'll examine the costs and trade-offs of that ideal summer job, whether it's in your field of study or not.

Each student has his or her own motivations for the summer jobs they pursue. The key is to evaluate your short- and long-term goals and consider how that affects your education and career aspirations. Here are three questions to ask:

1. How much money do I need to earn?

If you're one of the nearly three-quarters of Canadian students (71 per cent) who worries about having enough cash to cover the expenses associated with school, then finding a job this summer is going to be critical. Take a look at your current spending and assess how your needs will be different next year. Will your housing costs go up or down? Did you budget enough for entertainment? What will tuition be in the coming year? What sources of funds are still available such as RESPs? Write down all of your projected expenses and sources of income to see what you'll need to cover the coming year. Consider using an online budget calculator to make the process easier.

To help generate supplemental income, explore the thousands of scholarships and bursaries available to Canadian students, as many of them go unclaimed each year. Check out studentawards.com and scholarshipscanada.com for a listing of available scholarships and start applying. Here are my four tips for scholarship success.

2. What kind of work experience do I want to gain?

Depending on your longer term career goals, you may decide to balance your earning potential with a job that will also provide some work experience in your chosen field.

For many students, simply landing a job with a decent income is the main priority. There are usually tangible learning opportunities and skills to develop in any job or role you take on, whether or not it is directly related to your field of study. For example, if you're heading a landscaping crew, hone your organizational and leadership skills. If you're working in a manufacturing environment, make note of the business operations and how supply and demand are met. Many students start their own business. This provides an opportunity to create a business plan, develop a marketing strategy and manage a budget and cash flow. These are all skills that are marketable in the future and worth adding to your resume.

3. How valuable is experience outside of the classroom?

Students can get a wider perspective on life by using some time this summer to volunteer with a registered charity. Working with a charity is a good way to gain valuable work experience and supplement your resume. I know a student who is studying sports management. He makes a point of coaching youth teams each year, both because he loves coaching and helping the kids, and because it also aligns with his career path.

Along with each of these questions is the need to consider the financial implications of your current situation as you look at a prospective summer job. Will you need to break a lease or find a sublet? What will it cost to commute to this job every day? Do I need to invest in clothing or equipment for the summer job? Either way, it's a good time to update your budget to ensure that you balance saving for the coming year with your expenses over the summer.

The second semester is half over, but summer is just around the corner. Don't wait too long to get started on your job search. The best summer jobs are often spoken for early, so take some time to ask yourself these questions and then jump in with both feet!

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