It may be hard to find a job, but that won't be a good excuse for a slim résumé when you're sitting across from a recruiter next year. Like it or not, college students are expected to pull good grades in tough classes while gaining professional experience on the side. And for students who depend on their own paycheck, steady work also brings in much-needed cash.
Your best bet is to look for a job that's related to the career you're hoping to pursue, so you can gain relevant skills, contacts, and experience. If you don't know yet which career is right for you, use your college job to help you figure that out, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World. If you don't end up enjoying the job you choose, you can cross it off your list of potential careers.
These 10 jobs are great choices for students because they look good on a résumé, work around class schedules, and offer decent pay. Keep in mind that if you work on campus, your boss may be more sympathetic when you need time off to study for a sociology exam or finish that chemistry lab.
[See accompanying slide show: 10 College Jobs to Boost Your Résumé.]
1. On-campus tour guide: By showing prospective students, their families, and alumni around university grounds, you'll no doubt improve your speaking and presentation skills. It can also be an opportunity to learn more about your school. "You also demonstrate that you have maturity," says Dan Klamm, outreach and marketing coordinator at Syracuse University's Career Services office. "The school typically would only put someone in that role if they entrust the student to represent them in a positive and mature way."
2. Brand ambassador: Whether you're working for Pepsi, JetBlue, or Neutrogena, marketing a product to your peers can be a great way to make a buck—or at least bring home a few free samples. Many medium and large companies want a presence on college campuses, and those free samples are likely to make you a hot commodity among your peers. "That type of position has the backing of the national company," says Klamm. "You put down on your résumé that you worked for Starbucks in a marketing role, [and] that looks really impressive... In most cases, [students] are setting up events, they're generating word-of-mouth interest, they're speaking at student organization meetings. So it's a lot of the communication skills [and] organizational skills that a professional employer would be looking for." If you're interested in becoming a brand ambassador, RepNation, which connects students and companies, is a good place to start.
3. On-campus IT support: Because you'll gain real-world experience without leaving campus, this is one of the best work-study jobs for students working on a degree in a relevant area. Sue Dahlin, assistant director for career advising at University of Puget Sound, says technology-services work usually involves diagnosing and solving technical problems for other students and teachers, as well as installing and setting up computer systems on campus. Since that includes providing customer service, it can help you sharpen your "people skills," she says.
4. Social media consultant: As online brand building becomes more important, small businesses are turning to part-time or contract employees to help run marketing campaigns on Facebook or Twitter. Though some companies may be wary of having a student serve as the face and communicator for their brand, they may still hire 20-somethings for help with the technical side of social media. For students, that means a chance to use and improve both IT and marketing skills. Other so-called "virtual jobs," like programming or designing websites, can also be a good way to earn a buck, says Pollak, the author who specializes in careers for Generation Y. "A lot of small business owners are hiring people virtually to do their social media, to design websites, to do work that a lot of young people are really good at—and you never have to leave your dorm room."