Finding a Summer Job: Your Plan for a Successful Search

Thinking about looking for a summer job? To be successful with your search, you need to have a plan. Treat your summer job search with the same dedication and energy you would use in looking for a full-time job. Below are some tips to make sure you are successful with your summer job search.

Start Early

David Hurlbut, Career Advisor at George Brown College, recommends starting your summer job search early in the school year: “This is the most important thing to keep in mind when looking for a summer job. Begin looking by December. Don’t wait until April, because that will be too late.” In some fields, you must start applying even earlier. Accounting firms, for example, make their hiring decisions as early as September. Investment banking and consulting firms start recruiting in November for the following summer. Start early so you don’t get left behind.

Visit your Career Centre

Make sure to check out your Career Centre in the first week of classes to find out about recruiting events, such as summer job fairs, that will be held throughout the year. These events are a great way for you to get face time with recruiters, find out more about their organizations and learn about the types of jobs they are recruiting for.

Your career centre will also post summer jobs, either online or on a job board, that employers are recruiting for at your campus. Get in the habit of checking these regularly.

If you want to work on campus, ask professors early about campus jobs. These positions are highly valued and very difficult to get—especially for first-year students. Visit your Career Centre and ask a career advisor when summer jobs are posted, what type of student employment programs are available on campus and what resources your school has to support your job search. Note: it’s not unusual for on-campus jobs to be available only to students who demonstrate financial need (e.g. receive student loans).

Make an appointment with a career counsellor or advisor

Your career counsellor can help you link your long-term career goals to your summer work. By developing a plan with your career counsellor, you can build on and enhance your skills each year.

Your career counsellor can also help you prepare your resume, give you feedback on your interview skills and coach you throughout the process
to make sure you’re on track.

Once your plan is in place and your resume is done, start applying for jobs. Look beyond on-campus recruitment and advertised jobs. Be proactive: find those “hidden” jobs. Here are a couple of tips to help you be successful:

  • Make a list of places where you’d like to work, then contact the company to find out about any summer opportunities.
  • Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. Don’t be afraid to ask people you know for contacts they may have. You never know where a summer job lead might come from.

What If I Don’t Land a Job in My Field?

Often students will say to me, “But I have no skills. I have only worked in retail or in the fast food industry.” If this is you, think about all the transferable skills that you have gained at these jobs that will help you land that dream job once you graduate. Employers identify communication, customer service, teamwork and leadership as key skills they are looking for in ideal candidates. When looking for a summer job, try to identify how it will help you build these skills. Hurlbut agrees: “Any summer job is a benefit to your future, regardless of your field, as it demonstrates transferable skills, which are a prequel to future jobs.”

Let’s suppose you work in the retail or fast food industry. In these types of workplaces, you deal with a lot of customer service issues, which means you are constantly using and improving your communication skills. You are also a member of a team. You may have proven leadership skills if you show initiative or have been promoted to team lead positions. You’re working in a fast-paced environment, constantly juggling a variety of tasks. You know what it’s like to report to someone and to be accountable. These are all important transferable skills you can take to any work environment.

So don’t get discouraged if you don’t land a job in your field. Instead, ask yourself, “What skills will I develop in this job that will help me find work once I graduate?”

Here are some ideas and possibilities for your job search:

Working Abroad

Employers are impressed with students who have international experience, as this shows that they are adaptable, have experience with other cultures and may even know another language. Begin your international summer job hunt early, as many students are interested in these exciting opportunities.

If you want to find work overseas, here are just a few places to check out:

Using Employment Agencies

When I was a university student, I spent an entire summer doing temporary work and really enjoyed it. I spent time in a variety of work environments, met many different people, and gained a lot of valuable skills that I wouldn’t have gained if I had worked in only one place doing the same job all summer long. You can find a list of employment agencies where you live on Simply type “employment agencies” as the keywords in the “Find a Business” section of the web page.

Your university or college may have a temp agency as well.

UTemp at the University of Toronto provides temporary staff for the university:

YUTA does the same at York University:


By volunteering, you will not only give back to the community and enhance your skill set, you will meet tons of people from a variety of careers who will become part of your network.

Volunteering can also supplement your summer job experience. Let’s say you want a job in the healthcare industry after graduation, but are working as a cashier at a drugstore for the summer. Consider volunteering at a hospital, where you can gain some skills and meet people in your area of interest.

Let’s face it: times are tough. If you can’t find a paying job this summer, or if you find part-time work, volunteering is a great way to gain some work-related skills and avoid a gap on your resume. “A volunteer position isn’t less valuable than a paid job, because the experience alone is recognizable in the future,” says David Hurlbut. “If you can’t get that paid job, doing something is better than nothing.”

Here are a couple of non-traditional volunteering ideas: Provides links to volunteering, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, working on organic gardens and farms in Canada and abroad. Katimavik’s mission is to contribute to the sustainable development of communities across Canada through challenging volunteer service programs.

Starting Your Own Business

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, think about starting a business during the summer. Are there dogs in your neighbourhood that need to be walked? Do your neighbours need their lawns mowed? Swimming pools cleaned? Windows washed? Kids babysat? Look around for a need in your community that you can fill.

The Ontario Government’s Summer Company program awards up to $3000 to students who want to set up their own summer business:

On a final note, Hurlbut reminds students to “start early, get creative, look outside of the service industry and be prepared to travel.” Whatever you decide to do this summer, push your limits! Remember that each step you take today will lead to great opportunities tomorrow. CO

Here are some websites (in alphabetical order) that may help you find summer job opportunities in your province.

Alberta Summer Jobs

British Columbia Summer Jobs


A comprehensive listing of summer camps and wilderness programs for youth in the United States and Canada.

Canada Summer Jobs

Canada’s Wonderland

Seasonal and permanent jobs at Canada’s Wonderland.

Cool Jobs Canada

Job board for resorts, tour companies, camps and parks. Tour guides, site interpreters, outdoor education, lifeguards, and similar tourism-related jobs. Mostly summer and seasonal work. Choose your province or territory.

Cool Works

Summer and other jobs in the U.S. Students who are not eligible to work in the U.S. must have a special visa. See website for details.


This part of ExtremeJobs features resort and adventure jobs. Includes links to ski and sun resorts, mostly in western and central Canada. Includes summer jobs in Rocky Mountain resorts and elsewhere.

Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP)

Opportunities to gain valuable work experience with a number of federal organizations. For students studying in Canada, or Canadian students studying abroad. Candidates must be returning to school after the program.


Resort jobs in Canada and the United States.

Job Bank: Student job search

Job Bank is the largest web-based network of job postings available to Canadians. Search for the jobs collected and posted daily across Canada. An easy-to-use resource.

Just for youth and students

Link to Service Canada programs: Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP), career programs, youth internship programs, Summer Work Experience for students, Skills Link program for youth facing barriers. Many more programs supported by the federal government, including information on employment insurance (EI), targeted wage subsidies and job creation partnerships.

Language learning and exchange programs

Two programs for young adults interested in learning French
or English.

Manitoba Summer Jobs

Mazemaster job board
Jobs for teens and young adults. Full-time, part-time, summer and seasonal, temporary and contract jobs in Ontario.

New Brunswick Summer Jobs

National Research Council Canada

NRC hires experienced university staff, co-op students, summer students and new graduates at the master’s and Ph.D. levels, including post-doctoral fellows. Also operational staff. See “Who we hire” for a list of core competencies.

National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Provides funding for organizations to hire science/engineering students. Both students and employers must apply for approval for this program.

Nunavut Summer Jobs

Ontario Rangers

Eight-week summer program of outdoor work and learning for young Ontario residents.

Ontario Summer Employment Programs

Opportunities for youth and students in the Ontario Public Service, its associated agencies and community groups through its summer employment programs. Positions in fish and wildlife programs in provincial parks, community-based recreation programs, administration of justice and law enforcement, and public safety. Also a student exchange program with the Government of Quebec.

Parks Canada

This website describes types of jobs with Parks Canada, volunteering, information about Canadian Student Programs, training and information for non-Canadians.

Parks of the St. Lawrence Employment Opportunities

Jobs at the parks, Fort Henry and Upper Canada Village.

Quebec Summer Jobs

Saskatchewan Summer Jobs

Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP)

You pay them to arrange work abroad summer opportunities. You may not earn much, but will experience living in a different culture.

Summer company
Come up with a business idea of your own and you could score up to $3000 to bring your vision to life. Get a mentor to guide you.

Summer Work Experience

Under the Youth Employment Strategy, the Summer Work Experience program creates summer employment opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students. Find your local Service Canada Centres for Youth for help finding a job.

Information for employers and students about a wage-subsidy program that enables employers to create career-related summer jobs for students.

Summer Work Student Exchange / Emplois d’Ete Echanges Etudiants

A six-week summer exchange employment program for students aged 16 and 17. Apply through your federal Member of Parliament.


TalentEgg is a career portal for Canadian students and new grads. Entry-level jobs, summer jobs, internships.

Work Study Programs

Available at most academic institutions for students who are able to demonstrate financial need, these programs offer attractive opportunities to work on campus. Speak with your career centre or student financial aid officer. student jobs in Toronto

Student and summer jobs in the Toronto area.

Youth Employment in Natural Resources

Summer jobs, co-ops, exchanges and other temporary positions in Ontario.

Yukon Summer Jobs

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