Summer jobs have become a right of passage. They are one of the first steps to independence for most youth. They provide an opportunity to learn the value of money, build work experience, and meet referees. Governments invest heavily in promoting youth employment during the summer holiday as a way to stimulate the economy and reduce crime.

Whether you are a recruiter, university admissions officer, or city official, it clear that youth who spend their summer break working are the kinds of people you want in your community. Too many young people overlook or fail to capitalise on this opportunity for personal and professional growth. The result is usually a set of qualifications from an accredited institution and no real-world work experience. Or worse, a disparity of soft skills that one typically develops in work settings.

Unfortunately, summer work experience is often an overlooked element when filling out applications. This is especially true if the work was seasonal or in a field unrelated to your field of study or desired career. After all, how does a summer working in a charity shop help you land a job with an IT firm?

At Alexander Partners we often advise our clients not to look at the jobs themselves but to examine the skills learned on the job. Did you have a leadership position? Were you in charge of any day-to-day operations? Did your position require you to develop your customer service skills? When asked to list your relevant experience, it can seem like much of what you have done in the past is not relevant at all. However, it’s important to recognise that skills like teamwork, customer service, problem-solving, and leadership are the types of skills that all employers look for, regardless of industry.

It’s also important to take advantage of summer work opportunities to build your skill base. Not all summer work must be paid work. Volunteering at a local non-profit is just as valuable to future employers as paid work. Summer internships, leadership camps and initiatives, and public service jobs are all valuable ways to gain relevant work experience before graduation.

Taking a look at most entry-level job listings, it’s impossible not to notice that experience is usually a requirement. Many young people scratch their head when they see this. .How do you gain experience if you can’t get hired unless you have experience? Summer employment programs, especially those designated for youth, are a great way to overcome this hurdle. Most major cities have a youth employment program that helps to link young people with part-time and seasonal work. Many small, private businesses, such as kennels, print shops, and doctor’s offices are often willing to take on young people as volunteers, or interns for the summer months. Seizing one of these types of opportunities is one of the best ways to build your CV in preparation for your first “real job.”

Instead of embracing the idea of summer months spent poolside or endless hours of Fortnight, be sure to take advantage of the summer months to work towards the future you deserve. Learning to balance fun with responsibility is one of the greatest skills that anybody can master. Don’t let these weeks slip away without taking advantage.

Written by Jameka Neil