The best part-time jobs for college students (and tips for the search)

Nice work if you can get it

So you’ve just arrived at school and realize that scholarship or summer savings is not going to stretch as far as you’ve thought.

What next?

Act fast. The job scene varies from campus to campus, so don’t rely on the views of friends studying in other cities. Check with your school’s job placement office or online service, go door to door — and update your resume.

Despite the doom and gloom of the economy, “things are picking up,” said Jeff Janas, job placement coordinator for Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

Just don’t be too picky. Many jobs out there pay $7.25-$10, according to a survey of Web sites and several Minnesota schools. And you’ll have to hustle for those.

“If a student just checks the (jobs) Web site just once a week and doesn’t really proactively approach the job hunt or follow up, it will be tough,” said Vicki Decker, director of career services at Winona State University.

Cheap caffeine as a perk?

Off-campus jobs are your most likely option. That’s because some schools have most of their on-campus jobs set aside for those already in a work-study scholarship program — and the others get snatched up fast. Some schools don’t have centers for those looking for part-time work, so students there have to look around themselves.

The main thing is to have a strategy, Janas said.

So keep these things in mind when you look:

  • Start early. Assistant Financial Aid Director Donna Hartmann-Turner of MSU Moorhead said she sees a surge of off-campus hiring starting in late July that lasts through mid-September. (So there’s still time in her area.) Savvy students start looking in the summer — some as early as June. Janas suggests lining things up in May.
  • Try early next year — or next spring. By then, some older students have graduated, and some companies have gotten their new budgets. Anoka-Ramsey sees a second batch of jobs in February. Moorhead sees its surge in May. But those jobs might not be as numerous as the ones found in the summer. Decker, for example, said her winter-spring openings number only half those found in August.
  • Review your skills. Unless you’re applying for a job in the computer lab, you don’t need specialized skills or technical knowledge to get a lot of jobs, That said, the market is still competitive — so any edge you can give yourself will help. And some employers pay more for those with skills or experience.
  • Update your resume. Winona State counselor Charlie Opatz said good part-time jobs have a number of applicants, and a resume shows seriousness. “If you can get your application to top of the pile, you have greater chance” of getting the job, he said. Get your resume critiqued at the campus job center if it offers the service.
  • Hit the streets. Campus job offices might not deal in many restaurant, bar, retail or coffee shop jobs. (Janas said he’s started seeing more retail openings, by the way.) For those you often need to go door to door. And Janas said that because many businesses don’t advertise openings, “I tell students to get off their butts and go visit the places themselves.”
  • Don’t assume databases are current. On-campus jobs disappear from the Web site when they’re filled, Hartmann-Turner said. But off-campus employers often don’t notify the university when they’ve hired someone.
  • Consider temping. Temp agencies are starting to tap his local college labor market, Janas said. But he cautioned that it’s still unclear how good their job placement rates are.
  • Check with the chamber of commerce. Some, such as the Ely chamber, send out student resumes to their members, said Jeff Nelson, director of enrollment services at Vermilion Community College.
Could be fun, but do you have the skills?

With those things in mind, it’s possible to be optimistic.

“I think someone new can definitely find a job off campus,” said Hartmann-Turner.

So what are the best jobs, anyway?

Two writers on the Web considered that, compiling lists that took into account pay, benefits and non-pay perks. The first is from Walletpop.com and the second from NextStudent.com.

I’ve condensed the lists, so click on the links for the full details.

What do you think? Does anyone know of other good part-time jobs for schools?

Walletpop:

1. Barista: $6-$13/hour plus a variety of benefits.

2. Whole Foods staff: $11/hour on average, plus health and dental after 400-800 hours worked.

3. School library services: Usually minimum wage, but you can get some studying on the clock.

4. Car dealership receptionist: $10/hour starting. Walletpop tells of two University of Minnesota students who worked at Maplewood Imports.

5. Computer store worker: Apple stores offer tuition assistance, depending on the position, location and time spent with Apple, and a generous discount on computers, iPhones, iPads and iPods.

6. Arts instructor: $15/hour: One Fargo woman worked as a dance instructor while attending MSU Moorhead.

7. College bartending/serving: Often minimum wage, but tips may double the pay.

8. Residence adviser: Free or discounted rooms.

9. Home painting manager: $5,000-$36,000/year. Bonuses range from $1,000 to $4,000 for some above-average workers.

10. Paid internships: When you can find one, it can be a good gig. Pay depends on the field, but it’s often $10-$15 per hour, plus possible college credit.

NextStudent:

1) Computer lab assistant (on-campus): $8–$11/hour, often depending on tech skills. Lot of time to study. Computer support specialist (off-campus): $21-$22/hour.

2) Administrative / personal assistant (on- or off-campus): $19-$20/hour.

3) Aerobics instructor / fitness trainer (off-campus): $15-$16/hour.

4) College mail / print center attendant (on-campus): $12–$13/hour plus possible discounts.

5) Library assistant (on- or off-campus):$11-12/hour.

6) Bank teller (off-campus): $11-$12/hour.

7) Desk attendant (on-campus): $8–$10/hour. Hotel desk clerk (off-campus): $9-$10/hour.

8) Babysitter (on- and off-campus):$7-$10/hour depending on experience.