Most students are familiar with that incessant voice in the back of your head telling you it’s time to start looking for a summer job. The whispers begin sometime over the winter, but then get silenced as other priorities get in the way, whether it’s studying, exams or just the hectic nature of life. Before you know it, school is over and all you have is a dusty resume in hand and no job prospects in sight.

While it’s not unusual for students to start their summer job hunt in June, most employers begin their planning as early as January. In February , Workopolis published an article entitled Why you should be lining up your 2013 summer job right now, summarizing the many job opportunities already posted, both on Workopolis and on multiple government web sites.

Although most prime jobs have likely been filled by June, all hope is not lost for summer job stragglers. Here are five ways you can get back in the game to ensure that your summer is a productive, enjoyable and, hopefully, financially lucrative one.

  • Leverage, and expand, your network of contacts – at this stage in the game, subtlety is not the way to go. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a summer job and, if possible, be specific about the type of work you are looking for. Then ask each of your contacts to identify three people they know who can help you in your search. It’s similar to the LinkedIn model of networking, but taking it offline (and picking up a phone) can personalize the experience and hopefully lead to quicker results.
  • Take unpaid work – while working for free, whether through an internship or volunteering at a not-for-profit organization, may not be the first option that comes to mind when searching for a summer job, it does help to plant the seeds for future employment.  It will provide you with the experience and contacts you need to boost your employment profile and differentiate you from other job seekers in the future. Plus, it allows you to follow your passion. And, if you’re lucky, there may even be an honorarium in it for you at the end of the summer to demonstrate appreciation for a job well-done.
  • Be your own boss – if the right job isn’t out there for you, create one for yourself. Consider some of your strengths and interests, and then think about where there is a need in your community. Babysitting, painting, dog-walking, lawn cutting, flyer distribution, manual labour and handy man services are all jobs that require no overhead and are in high demand during the summer. Create a professional flyer to post and distribute in your neighbourhood. Talk to neighbours to see whether they have interest in hiring you to assist with tasks around the house. You never know where one job will lead.
  • Extend your job search geographically – if you have family or friends you can stay with in different towns or cities, you may want to extend your job search to these locations. Consider places that have high seasonal employment requirements, perhaps because they are located in cottage country o
    r have a local seasonal attraction like an amusement park. Being flexible in your job search parameters will likely help to yield better results.
  • Find creative ways to stand out – being innovative with your job search doesn’t necessarily mean creating a sophisticated viral marketing campaign or wearing a sandwich board. Deliver your resume in person and ask if the hiring manager has a minute to meet with an enthusiastic candidate.  Mail or drop off a memorable object to an employer that is relevant to the position you want. For example, if you are applying for a landscaping position, send a package of sunflower seeds along with a tag line in your cover letter stating “hire this keen applicant and watch your business grow faster than these sunflowers.” Corny? Maybe. But it will help to make you memorable, especially if you already have the skills that make you right for the job.

While starting your job search in the summer is less than ideal, it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. It likely means, however, that you will have to be more assertive and flexible than the next candidate and think outside of the box. And, since you have some free time, maybe think about tuning up your resume for the 2014 summer job season.