Making the most out of your summer job

Woman walking four dogs on leashes

How to take full advantage of your summer gig before school starts.

Summer vacation has arrived, and that may mean trading hours learning for hours working at your new summer job. And though your job may just seem like something to pass the time and earn some money, you might be surprised by the benefits you can reap in just a few months. Here’s how to take full advantage of your summer gig before high school or college start again.

Tip #1: Pad your savings account

Summer serves up many enticing ways to spend your money, but it’s important to remember that saving is smart. Securing a nest egg for future expenses will make checking your account balance a more positive experience. Set a savings target based on your personal goals and consistently save the appropriate percentage of your paycheck each month to reach your target. Aim for at least 5% to 10% of your income into savings every month. For more information on saving money, visit the Saving Money section of College STEPS.

Tip #2: Make your manager a valuable reference

Generating a good rapport with your boss should be a top priority because references from supervisors can be crucial when applying to college, grad school, scholarships, internships, and future jobs after college graduation. Having bosses and others who can vouch for your work ethic is one of the best ways to prepare for life down the road. Plus, it’s a good way to potentially lock in a summer job for years to come.

Tip #3: Learn about different parts of your paycheck

If you’re unfamiliar with the financial jargon that’s part of your summer job payment info, here a few terms to know.

  • Paycheck: A bank check you receive with a sum based on your wage or salary.
  • Direct deposit: Instead of receiving a physical check or cash, you could have the option of having the amount automatically transferred into your bank account. You need to set this up with your employer, which typically includes providing your bank account information.
  • Gross pay: The total amount of money earned before taxes and other deductions.
  • Net pay: That’s money left after taxes and other withholdings. Withholdings can include federal and state income taxes, Medicare taxes, and Social Security taxes.
  • Tax withholdings: A portion of a paycheck that is deducted by the employer and given directly to the government. The amount withheld is based on your IRS Form W-4.

Tip #4: Make decisions about your career path

Use your part-time summer job to help decide what you might be interested in. For example, working at a summer camp might teach you that you don’t have the patience to deal with children — therefore veering you away from an education major. Your job at a hotel might steer you toward hospitality and restaurant management. Or your job at a gym may verify that you want to continue in the fitness field as a physical therapist. What you love and what you hate at your part-time job can be extremely telling, so make sure to take stock come the end of summer.

Tip #5: Sharpen your people skills

Whether you’re clothing mannequins, manning a cash register, or serving lattes, a part-time job can help teach you important all-purpose skills such as teamwork and collaboration, which are essential in most lines of work. Building your people skills includes learning about ways to successfully interact with customers, managers and fellow employees — lessons that will also apply when it’s time to embark on a career.

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