Careers advice

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

You get out what you put into a summer job.

What you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of getting a summer job
  • How to apply for a summer job in NZ
  • How to make the most of your summer job experience
  • 4 skill building summer job ideas

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.

Why you should get a summer job

We get it, after a long slog at school or uni, you might feel like taking the whole summer off to enjoy the sun. sea and scenery that Aotearoa offers in an abundance. But that’s one of the beauties of a summer job, it doesn’t need to take up all your time. You can hold down a summer job, while having plenty of time to enjoy yourself – but with a bit of extra cash in your pocket.

Among the reasons why getting a summer job is a good move are:

  • Learning about applying for jobs: the process of applying for summer jobs is itself a useful experience to have. You’ll learn about the hoops you have to jump through, practice creating a CV and cover letter, and experience what it’s like to be interviewed for a role.
  • Gaining work experience: even if the summer job you get has nothing to do with the career you want to have, it’s still highly beneficial. You’ll learn what it’s like to work for someone, understand professional responsibilities and start building important soft skills. This will all look good when you start applying for longer-term roles further down the track.
  • Getting good references: Having good references from former employers will serve you well when you apply for roles in the future. This means, at the end of your summer job, you should ask your employer to provide a reference for you, either in writing, or by giving you a phone number so that future prospective employers can contact them.
  • Start building a network: if you can land a summer job in a sector you’re interested in, the contacts you’ll make could come in handy in the future when you’re looking for opportunities or hoping to upskill.
  • Earning money: as well as all these long-term benefits, there’s a lot to be said for having a little extra cash coming in.
  • Gaining a longer term position: it’s common, if the employer likes you, for them to offer to extend your employment, meaning you’ll be able to keep all of these benefits going even after summer is over.

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, or 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.

To make this whole process easier and faster, we’ve got some free downloadable CV templates that you can save, fill-in and use in your applications.

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, get 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.

4 skill building summer job ideas

Summer job idea #1: Hospitality

As one of the world's most desirable tourist destinations, there are always plenty of hospo holiday jobs available across New Zealand.

Even better, employers in this industry love short-term staff who can get them through the busy season, before they downscale again when things get quieter.

As well as being sociable and energetic working environments, hospitality jobs offer a bunch of transferable skills that will look great to future interviewers. Stuff like:

  • Communication – from dealing with customers (polite and otherwise) to working as part of a team, the soft skills you’ll gain in hospo are highly sought after in all sectors.
  • Cash handling – in addition to the technical know-how of tasks like balancing tills, if your boss trusts you with money it’s a clear sign to future employers that you’re responsible and honest.
  • Hazard identification – occupational health and safety is becoming increasingly important, so being able to identify and reduce risks are useful skills to have under your belt.

Summer job idea #2: Retail

Whether we’re spending $60 on a pair of jeans – or several hundred on a new phone – for most of us, shopping doesn’t require a lot of thought. A summer working in retail will soon change this.

Fast-paced shops are some of the best summer jobs from a skill-building perspective, even if your intended career path is a world away from the high street. There’s a heck of a lot to learn, including:

  • A solid work ethic – on your feet all day, juggling multiple tasks, retail isn’t for the faint of heart, and recruiters know it. You'll also gain great customer service skills by dealing with a wide variety of people, queries and (unfortunately) complaints.
  • Commercial thinking – learning to put yourself into the shoes of a consumer will set you up when applying for jobs in marketing, advertising and much more.
  • Attention to detail – stock takes, product ordering and delivery management all require a careful and methodical approach, and demonstrate your ability to handle responsibility.

There are plenty of skills you can gain from working in a busy retail environment.

Summer job idea #3: Administration

Temp admin jobs come up frequently throughout the year, and are a great option if you’re looking to beef up your CV.

While you can’t be guaranteed a real-life ‘The Office’ experience from a summer admin job, there are heaps of skills on offer, for example:

  • Software expertise – all modern grads have used tools like the Microsoft suite, but doing so in a professional capacity will help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Payroll experience – this will depend on the specific admin role you land, but any involvement in payroll is super transferable to future positions.
  • Database management – modern businesses are data driven (or getting there), so if you can show that you’ve taken ownership of data entry and analysis, you’re onto a winner!

Summer job idea #4: Holiday programmes

Among the most fun summer jobs in NZ, working for a kids holiday programme has obvious benefits if you’re considering a career in teaching or childcare. However, this is another setting that provides lots of scope for broad development – you’ll learn:

  • Leadership skills – from sports to music to art, you’ll be coming up with, and running, lots of different activities. This requires planning, energy and the ability to think on your feet when one of your charges throws you a curveball. Because they will, we promise.
  • Patience – hopefully you’ll never work in an environment where colleagues pull each others’ hair, insist on telling knock-knock jokes, or start food fights. If your nerves can survive a summer with a fleet of 8-year-olds, you can deal with even the most exasperating workplace dramas.
  • Responsibility – ultimately, it’s up to you to ensure the kids are healthy, happy and safe. This is no mean feat, and a great skill to develop in an age where emotional intelligence is so highly prized by employers.

Working with kids during your summer holiday is rewarding, if a little tiring!

Regardless of what summer job you take, simply having some real working experience on your CV can set you apart from your peers. Importantly, it will also give you some talking points during those first few nerve-wracking job interviews.

At the end of your holiday job, don’t forget to add the experience to your Trade Me Jobs Profile. You can use this tool to start building up your online presence, and help recruiters to find you in the future.

Now, get out there and start looking for that perfect summer holiday job!