How To Make The Most Of Summer Unemployment


You sent out resumes and countless cover letters, applied online and spammed everyone you could think of with job applications, but somehow nothing panned out.

You’re not alone – according to Statistics Canada, the summer unemployment rate for students aged 20 to 24 as of May 2012 is 14.9%!

But don’t resign yourself to the couch just yet. If you’re heading into summer with no job, there are still ways to avoid a summer-shaped gap on your resume.

Keep your spirits up

Most importantly, don’t get yourself down. Times are tough. Turn that frown upside-down and make the most of the coming months.

Queen’s University career counsellor Julia Blackstock says students can consider unemployment as an opportunity to develop skills such as:

  • learning how to cope with a challenging situation
  • showing how you were able to stay motivated
  • demonstrating how you worked around barriers or limits

Even though you may not have a job to put on your resume, she says, students who are unemployed for the summer can, “still have valuable experience to talk about with a future employer.”

Start your own business

It’s the do-it-yourself version of summer employment. If you can’t find a job, make your own.

Look at your skills set and the needs of your hometown and start up your own small business. Is there a subject that you’re a particular brainiac at? Try tutoring. Are you good with kids? Advertise your services as a babysitter or nanny. Like working outside? Start up a yard work business.

Starting your own business not only looks good on a resume but can also be great networking opportunities. And of course, you’ll get to cut your own pay cheque.


When paid positions are scarce, try volunteering in an environment that relates to your long-term goals, says Blackstock. “The most important thing [for students] is to find some steps forward,” she says.

For volunteer opportunities and listings, Blackstock recommends checking Volunteer Canada, Charity Village, and along with any organizations that may be in your local area.

Take a course

If can’t head to the office this summer, consider heading back to the classroom for a few months. Though you may not be getting work experience, but you can still expand your skill set and add to your degree in classes or online courses.

Taking a summer course can also free up time during the school year for a part-time job, helping you earn some of the cash money that you missed out on during the summer months.

Prepare for your next step

If you can’t find a job, why not spend the summer working on your job materials?

  • Perfect your resume
  • Workshop your cover letters
  • Polish your online presence by creating a personal professional website showcasing your online resume and portfolio
  • Start a blog discussing issues and news relating to your area of job interest
  • Work on your social media following and take the time to really figure out how to use LinkedIn, such as joining groups in your industry

Blackstock says, “joining a group can help you connect with others who have similar work interests and, on occasion, find out about an opportunity.”

Try and link up with professionals outside of LinkedIn as well. Contact professionals that you admire or organizations that you’d like to work for and ask for advice.

The summer before my last year of undergrad, I contacted journalists, PR representatives and social media consultants to try to figure out how I could one day be in their shoes. I found that professionals are more than willing to share their story and everyone has a few lessons learned that they can impart.

Use the summer to get to know some of the people in your field, figure out if you’re going in the right direction and make some good connections along the way.

 Photo credit: Summer Vacation by faungg on Flickr
About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.