These days, a good job is hard to find. But that won’t be a decent excuse for a slim résumé when you’re sitting across from the recruiter next year. Like it or not, college students are expected to be capable of pulling good grades in tough classes while gaining professional experience on the side. Hiring managers want to know that they won’t need to train new employees in the basics of life on the job. The 10 jobs listed below are great choices for students because they look good on a résumé, work around class schedules, offer decent pay, or—if they’re really great—all of the above.
On-campus IT support job: This is one of the best work-study jobs you’ll find if you are working on a degree in a relevant area. You’ll be able to gain real-world experience without leaving campus. Sue Dahlin, a career adviser at University of Puget Sound, says technology-services work can involve solving technical problems for other students and teachers as well as installing and setting up computer systems on campus. “We encourage our students to get as much career experience as possible,” Dahlin says. Plus, such jobs are more convenient and lucrative than unpaid, off-campus internships.
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On-campus career services: It isn’t easy for college students to learn the ins and outs of the professional world while keeping up their grades. Working in career services can help you become familiar with the job-hunting process and become comfortable talking with employers and recruiters, says Kitty McGrath, executive director of career services at Arizona State University. Students in McGrath’s office give presentations to fellow students about the career services and resources offered. A bonus: “What other job can you think of that you have an opportunity to change someone’s life?” McGrath says.
Paid internship: This is the gold standard of college jobs: You get professional experience and working-world connections, you build knowledge in a real-world work setting, and someone wants to pay you for it. If the work is relevant to the career field you’re likely to pursue, even better. This is the best way to test the waters and find out if a particular field is right for you, says Brad Karsh, founder of the career consultancy JobBound. Recruiters like to see students showing an active—and early—interest in their industry, and they look for students who demonstrate a passion for their work, says Holly Paul, the national sourcing operations leader for campus and experienced recruiting at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Unpaid internship: This is obviously not as great for your wallet as a paid internship, but the good news is that recruiters don’t care. PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Paul says she’s never asked a candidate whether an internship was paid or not. If you’re in a financial position to take this work, it will pay off later. And if you’re having a tough time finding work, consider proposing an unpaid internship to a company you’re interested in. While summer internships are great, a part-time internship during the school year might be even better. “It shows you can handle a lot of work,” says Karsh, a former recruiter for advertising giant Leo Burnett. “It’s not easy to work while you’re in school full time.”
Waiter or waitress: Don’t turn up your nose. This is honest work, you can earn a good amount of money, and employers will typically work around your school schedule. Even better, you can often return to a restaurant after taking time off, and consistency looks good to a hiring manager. The bottom line for your pocketbook and for your future job interviews: “Working while you go to school is always going to be more beneficial than not working,” Karsh says. In part, that’s because the millennial generation has the unfortunate reputation of seeming “entitled,” and a history of hard work shows that you’re not taking much for granted.
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Lab assistant: This can be a great choice for a student seeking a career in the laboratory sciences. Off-campus lab assistant positions are often part time and may require only a high school diploma. Colleges often employ lab assistants in campus research labs, sometimes through work-study programs. Research experience can be very appealing to employers, says Laurence Shatkin, an occupational expert.
Professor’s research assistant: If you’re having a tough time finding a job, consider working closely with a professor as a research assistant. You might propose a position to a professor in your discipline, Shatkin says. Not only will the skills you learn improve your career prospects, you’ll forge an advantageous connection. “The recommendation you’re going to get from that professor is better than from one who knows you solely in the classroom setting,” Shatkin says.
Home health aide: If you’re considering a career in healthcare—a solid choice in this economy—working part time as a home health aide could provide some valuable insight. Home health aides often work with the elderly, helping them take their medicines, work through physical exercises, and perform basic grooming. Healthcare jobs have held up during this recession, and the number of home health aide positions is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations.
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Writer: If you’re headed for a career that involves communications—and most do—you may gain advantages working, paid or not, as a writer. You might find work with a campus publication or the school paper. Alison Green, a hiring manager and U.S. News contributing blogger, says her college job writing for the school’s alumni magazine looked great on her résumé. You might even find online editing work. “We have seen an increasing trend toward virtual jobs,” says Fred Grant, founder of CollegeHelpers.com, a job-posting site for college students.
Bank teller: About 1 in 4 tellers work part time, so college students might find flexibility in a bank job. You’ll gain customer service experience, and you’ll be forced to become familiar with numbers. Sometimes students who are interested in working in the financial industry get their feet wet as tellers. Remember, when searching for a job, you’re ideally looking for something that’s relevant to your future career, Shatkin says.