Most people are probably well into their 2014 summer jobs by now – and there are some great ones out there where you work with your friends outdoors, meeting great people, and learning new skills.

And there are others that are less enviable – where you find yourself on an assembly line in a freezing poultry processing plant band-sawing the legs of chicken carcasses.

The key to landing a great summer job is to start looking early. As in January or February. Big companies, federal and provincial government programs, outdoor attractions and municipalities all start accepting applications early in the year, and they often have deadlines for submission that fall weeks before spring even arrives. And long before most of us every think about our summer job.

Which is why my more organized friends always came back to school in September with great tans and stories to tell while I nursed my frostbite and fear of vengeful flightless (and now legless) birds.

So if you’re just looking for a summer job now – well, you’re going to have fewer choices. But there are still jobs available for this summer.

Some roles have high turnover rates, and some people only want to work part of the summer and then take some time off – so good jobs could be opening up all the time. But it’s been a tight market for summer jobs, so if a position hasn’t been filled for two months – there’s probably a reason why.

Here are some red flags to watch out for that your summer job is going to suck:

  • Anything that asks you to give money up front or to buy products yourself which you then have to resell in order to make any money. That’s not a job – it’s a scam or a shaky investment.
  • Watch out for a relatively simple job that calls for long periods of unpaid ‘training.’ This can just be a way to get you to work for free.
  • Job description says “Be Your own Boss.” That’s likely a pyramid scheme; they’re selling you something.
  • The job description asks for “High-energy candidates able to work tirelessly in a fast-paced environment.” That’s a lot of disclaimers all saying the same thing. There’s a good chance this means you’re going to be on your feet all day without a break, probably barking at the passers-by.
  • The job was posted in April and it’s still available in August.

At this point your best bet to find a summer job that doesn’t suck is to get out there. Go to local businesses, stores, restaurants and attractions, look for signs in the windows, talk to people directly.

Employers are looking for interested, vibrant candidates who show initiative. And the number one thing they say they want from summer staff? Ability and willingness to work the shifts available. Translation: Be ready and enthusiastic to take the hours they offer without grumbling about the hours. Summer work is rarely 9-5.

Good luck!

See the summer jobs available on Workopolis now.

Peter Harris
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