Careers advice

How to get a summer job, and what you’ll learn

You get out what you put into a summer job.

There’s heaps to love about having a summer job in NZ. You get to earn some cash, build some skills and meet some new people, while still having the weekends, evenings and holidays free to enjoy the glorious weather of the Kiwi summer.

But how do you get about getting a summer job? We get it, it can be daunting, particularly if you’ve never held a professional role before. But fear not, we have all the info you need to get your application on point, and some tips for how to make the most of your experience.

Applying for summer jobs in NZ: the key ingredients

One of the best things about working over summer is that it gives you a taste of what to expect when you enter the real world of work, even if you know your employment will be ending when school/uni/training resumes. As well as experience in the workplace itself, you’ll also learn about how to make a job application. Here are some of the basics:

1. Know where to look

At first glance, when scrolling through job listings, it might seem that employers are only looking for long-term staff. However, if you know how to make your search more specific, you can cut through to what you’re really looking for.

Among our tips for finding summer jobs on Trade Me Jobs are:

  • Use keywords: you can enter specific terms that will match with relevant roles. The obvious choice is ‘summer job’, but also try alternatives such as ‘summer period’, or simply ‘summer’.
  • Choose the ‘job type’: often, summer jobs will be listed as ‘contract/temp’ roles, so choosing this employment type might help.
  • Think about the sector: some sectors (think hospo, retail etc.) are more likely than others to look for extra summer staff, so looking at these first could speed up the process.

Remember, the above are all things you can vary independently. So, if one combination of search criteria isn’t working, keep tweaking the formula until it does.

You can use filters on Trade Me Jobs to help you find the perfect summer job.

2. A summer job CV

Don’t worry if your CV looks light on the work experience front, employers looking for short-term summer staff will expect this. Of course, if you have voluntary experience, or if you’ve worked odd-jobs on the family farm, or in your community,for example, this stuff absolutely should go in there. But, if not, focus instead on writing a good personal statement and objectives section. This should give the employer a good idea of what you’re about, and what you want to achieve from the role. Recommended words to use here include: motivated, willing to learn, hard-working and intuitive.

Our other piece of advice here is to get someone: a parent, a friend or a teacher, to read your CV before you submit it. Even though you’re only looking for work for the summer, employers want to see that you’ve taken the time to make it read well, that you’ve gotten rid of any typos, and that you’ve formatted it nicely.

3. A summer job cover letter

Yep, you absolutely should be writing a cover letter when applying for summer jobs in Aotearoa NZ. Again, you might be tempted to think that it isn’t necessary for relatively short-term employment, but if someone else goes for the job and has taken the time to write a cover letter, who’s going to look more committed in the employer’s eyes?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a whole lot of work experience to put on there. Make the emphasis about what you’ll bring to the table in terms of energy, willingness to learn and a good attitude – these are core attributes for what employers look for in summer staff.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to writing a cover letter, with some examples for you to copy and personalise, check out our comprehensive guide!

4. Do some interview prep

If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, don’t try and wing it. Do some practice with a mate or a parent so that you give yourself the best chance of landing the job on the day.

Given that many summer jobs are public facing, we’d especially recommend focusing on behavioural interview questions, which ask how you’d react in a given scenario – for example, with an angry customer. Employers hiring summer staff like asking these questions because they know that you probably don’t have a whole heap of experience, so they want to see how you think and what your natural reactions are.

Doing some interview prep could be the difference between getting the role and not getting the role.

Making the most out of your summer job experience

1. Create a good impression

The contacts you make over this period can be among the most important things to take away from working a summer job, especially if you want to go back next year. However, if you’ve done the bare minimum, or, even worse, gotten in the way, they probably won’t be keen on helping you out in the future.

So, focus on making a good impression through your work ethic. This includes:

  • Being on time every day.
  • Paying attention during your training, and asking questions if you’re not sure.
  • Learning from any mistakes you make, and not repeating them.
  • Taking the initiative and not always waiting to be told what to do.

2. Take any opportunity to learn

It might be the case that you signed up to work as a kitchen assistant, but one day the establishment is short-staffed in the front-of-house department, and they need someone to wait tables that day. While it can be daunting to be suddenly thrust into a new environment with new challenges, take the opportunity and run with it. Gaining these extra skills not only makes you more valuable to the place you’re currently working, it also provides you with extra CV fodder for your next role.

3. Get to know your colleagues

Doing your job well is the most important thing, but it also helps to be a cheery and positive energy in the workplace. Again, this is the kind of thing that will make you the first person they call next summer when they’re looking for staff, and also ensures you’re remembered for all the right reasons.

As well as chatting to colleagues on breaks, or at lunch, go along to any team bonding events you're invited to if at all possible to help cement these relationships.

4. Ask for a reference

At the end of the summer, be up front about asking your manager for a reference for future jobs. Often this will involve getting permission to use their contact details when applying for your next role, but sometimes they;ll offer to provide you with a written reference as well..

It’s much better to have this conversation at the end of your employment period, when you’re fresh in their mind, rather than waiting a year and hoping they remember you when you next need a reference.