The warm weather earlier this week got some folks thinking about what they’re going to do when summer arrives and there may be plenty of jobs to choose from.

Summer in Chicago means sun and sand, not to mention a good deal of surf. And perhaps a stint as a lifeguard.

“I’m going to work at a pool this summer, teach swimming lessons and maintain a pool,” says one student.

But for some students, summer jobs are an opportunity to make as much money as possible and perhaps get a head start on a career.

“I’m a personal assistant for Selena Johnson. She’s a recording artist for Jive records and I do some backup dancing for her,” another student says.

That sounds like more than just a summer job.

“Actually, I’m getting into my career pretty fast,” she says.

“If you’re going to be in a focused career, getting into that career at an early level will help you with the experiences, and will help you get better permanent positions,” says Richard Castellini,

It certainly helps that the summer job market is expected to be the best it’s been in years.

“It’s really pretty good for teens this summer. Employment is expected to be up 13 percent. Only half of the teens out there are looking for jobs which means the competition is less,” says John Challenger, Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

But to find a job paying anywhere from $7 to 12 per hour, you’ve got to think outside the box.

“Kids who have real skills, especially technology skills, can go into companies, into nonprofits today and put those skills to use and make more money than the traditional mowing the lawn paint houses minimum wage jobs,” Challenger says.

Traditionally, the leisure industry, like amusement parks or hotels, offers plenty of summer opportunities. Or, you might try retail stores, which often hire extra summer help. Or for the politically inclined . . .

“State and local governments actually often have opportunities listed on their websites for teens. You can get to smaller towns, away from the city, often there is a real demand for people who want to try something different,” Challenger says.

“I was actually looking for something in security. Something that I’m good at. I don’t know, anything really. Something that I can get some money for school, try to pass. Become a lawyer,” one student says.

But the best jobs will come to those who do their homework.

“What we always tell job seekers, especially summer grads, is to do everything. Meaning, yes, have a resume prepared, but yes, be prepared to hit the street and knock on doors, because a lot of this hiring is done that way. Network and be willing to look at the newspaper, online,” Castellini says.

And be sure to dress for success.

“Don’t dress like you’re going out on a Friday night. Dress like you’re coming from a Sunday church service,” Castellini says.

And save those belly rings for the beach.

If you want your choice of jobs this summer, now’s the time to get moving. Many employers will do their summer hiring in April and early May, instead of waiting until school gets out in June.

Published: Apr 22, 2005