Group of candidates waiting for summer job interview

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on where to look for a summer job.

Summers in grad school can be an awkward time for the large percentage of grad students whose funding doesn’t stretch to cover twelve months of rent. And by “awkward,” we mean “extremely stressful and upsetting.” This problem is seldom discussed outside of grad student circles, and so the summer income gap can come as a shock, particularly after your first year. You may have academic obligations that don’t pay—conference attendance, research, and later on in your career, job market prep—but that doesn’t mean you don’t need groceries. So here are some ideas for steps you can take now to make sure you have income in August.

Look inside your school first.

It’s May, and deadlines for opportunities within your department (summer research assistantships; summer teaching) may already have passed. If they haven’t, great! Look there first. But you may need to think outside the departmental box. Try querying libraries, writing centers, or centers for teaching and learning. Visit the office of career services, or their website, to see if they maintain a list of summer jobs inside the university for students. You’ll have an advantage applying to these jobs, as a student; this is an easy way to begin.

Ask friendly professors.

Faculty may know of summer gigs that don’t show up on official lists. A colleague of theirs may have recently landed a grant and may be suddenly in need of research support, for example. It’s worth sending a few polite emails to any faculty members you know well to see if they’ve heard anything through the grapevine.

Try other universities and community colleges in the area.

These institutions may have summer classes that need teaching—especially if they don’t have grad programs in your areas of study. An email to the appropriate department coordinators could turn up an open spot.

Look for teaching jobs outside of your university.

Tutoring, summer programs for high-school students, even academic camps for younger kids: all of these may pay you a good wage, while offering a way for you to embellish your CV in the future. This side benefit may be especially helpful if you are in a research-heavy department that doesn’t offer many opportunities to teach during the year, and if you want to apply to teaching-focused jobs when you graduate. Summer experiences—even if they’re with ten-year-olds—can help you see whether you truly do feel comfortable and happy in a teaching role, and can offer good fodder for a reflective teaching-philosophy statement.

Try temping, freelancing, or the gig economy.

Yes, driving for Lyft, taking on dog walking or babysitting, or doing some freelance graphic design work can be inherently unstable and exploitative, and it’s hard to know how much income to expect from these pursuits. That’s why we’re putting this idea last! But temping, freelancing, and gigging have some advantages for a graduate student during the summer, because you have more control over the amount of work you do, and where and when you do it. This flexibility may come in handy if you get to late July, realize you really need to work on that dissertation chapter, and have enough money in the bank to do it.

What other recommendations do you have for finding a summer job? Tweet us and use the hashtag #Interfolio to share your ideas.

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