Should I lie to get a summer job?
June 18, 2008 6:31 AM   Subscribe

College student who needs a summer job. Should I lie to get one?

I go to college halfway across the country from where my folks live. I'm visiting my folks for the summer, and need summer employment. Problem is, employers seem to not want to hire a college student who will only be visiting for the next two months. Do I lie to them to get two months of paid work? If not, what do I do to get employment? I really need the money to help my folks pay my tuition.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total)
Don't lie. Plus, most of the time it won't be necessary to lie, because companies, in my experience (HR person here), companies don't hire summer help unless they specifically need summer help/coverage.

Your best bet will be honesty and retail. Maybe strike a deal that if they hire you you'll come back during Christmas break to work a few days?
posted by banannafish at 6:42 AM on June 18, 2008

Call a temp agency. They specialize in short-term jobs.
posted by belladonna at 6:44 AM on June 18, 2008

Don't lie. You could probably get away with it right now, but maybe you'll want to move back to this city some time in the future and it will catch up with you. Maybe they'll turn out to know your parents and give them grief. Maybe you'll need a reference from them sometime in the future. Maybe it'll be a great job or great connections and you'll want to use it in the future. And then of course, maybe it's just not acceptable to lie?

So here's some ideas. Try contacting local park district summer camps. Even this late publicly run summer camps are often hurting for counselors. Go door to door and offer to do gardening. Do some major project for your parents (repaint their porch, resod the side yard, whatever) and try to negotiate a salary from them (especially if it's something they were going to do for a cash layout anyway). Do the project for your parents free (there's a concept). Contact the local literacy program and volunteer (I know you probably need money, but if you can't find a job, please for your parents' sake find something to do that will keep you out of the house. Take it from me, they are used to you being gone and are not jumping for joy at the prospect of having you underfoot all day every day). Call a local theater and see if they have an unfilled internship. Ditto local governments. Next year go to your college's internship center and arrange for an internship BEFORE YOU GET HOME. (Sorry, didn't mean to shout.)

Furthermore, don't come to forums like this one looking for ideas on jobs. There are no jobs here. Get off your ass and away from the computer and actually Look. For. Work.
posted by nax at 6:47 AM on June 18, 2008

Seconding the temp agency thing. I worked with Kelly Services during my summers while I was in college, and for a bit after I graduated too. Pay was better than retail and gave me experience working in a variety of offices.
posted by ferociouskitty at 6:50 AM on June 18, 2008

Millions of college students are working (one or more) summer jobs in their parents' hometowns as we speak. Most of them didn't have to lie.

In addition to temp agencies--restaurants and resorts often need more staff in the summer than in the other months. Retail stores and mail-order warehouses (like ones that sell backpacks or kids' clothes) often do, too.
posted by lampoil at 7:13 AM on June 18, 2008

um, I think it depends on what kind of job you're looking for. One summer during college, I worked at a Pathmark (a major supermarket chain) as a cashier. I lied to get the job (like a bunch of other people who were working therej). It didn't really matter since Pathmark's turnaround rate is so high and I wasn't exactly looking to put "Pathmark Cashier" on my resume.

If you're looking for a job for experience, then don't lie. If it's something like a supermarket, I don't think you'll have an issue if you lie.
posted by carpyful at 7:24 AM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

It would be better to leave the incriminating parts blank on the job application rather than lie. But, otherwise try to have your parents network for you to see if they can find a friend or acquaintance that can hook you up.
posted by JJ86 at 7:43 AM on June 18, 2008

Take some "time off from school to explore the job market" and then, at the end of the summer, have a revelation that "I'm close to getting my degree, so I think I'm going back to school" You're not the only one who has had a 'change of heart' like this, you won't be the last, and there are always other people to fill job vacancies once you leave (especially since most employment these days is "at will" meaning they could fire you instantly and you'd be out of a job).
posted by kuppajava at 8:22 AM on June 18, 2008

I'm going to go against the grain here and suggest that a lie might not be the worst thing depending on the type of job. Retail, yes. Something in your future field, no.
posted by piedmont at 8:59 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you want to be the kind of person who lies whenever it is personally or financially expedient, then it sounds like a splendid idea.

But, at the very least, don't lie to yourself. If you make a conscious decision to lie, don't pretend like you "had to" or "had no other options" or that it was someone else's fault. You decided that it was easier to be dishonest than to find a job that would accept you on your terms.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with the majority here, please don't lie. Call a temp agency today.. If you are as bright as you seem and have computer/filing/typing skills you will probably be quickly placed into an air conditioned office doing easy (if unexciting) work for relatively decent pay and fair treatment. Good luck.
posted by applemeat at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2008

When I was in college, people lied about this kind of thing all the time. As long as it's a random job, who cares.
posted by sweetkid at 9:41 AM on June 18, 2008

If you can't get a job telling the truth, then yes, lie--or at least be purposefully vague about whether you plan to return to college in the fall. I'm assuming you're going for typical summer-type jobs: retail, restaurant work, etc. These kinds of jobs have high turnover anyway. I saw many people hired and fired in the three months I worked at record stores and mall shops during my summer breaks in L.A. And I went to school in Chicago--I get where you're coming from, here. I wouldn't recommend lying as a course of action for an office job or something that requires a long period of training. But other stuff, yeah. And don't feel bad about it, just do a great job while you're there.
posted by tyrantkitty at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2008

They reserve the right to fire you at will - so... I don't really see why you shouldn't be able to leave anytime you want. Plans change, and expecting you to make some kind of life committment for this kind of a job is unreal, possibly amoral, since there is no quid pro quo. Just my opinion, but there it is.
posted by xammerboy at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

The ethical answer is not to lie, but just about everyone I knew in college did essentially what kuppajava suggested above, with no ill effects.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2008

Oh, please, please don't lie, or if you must lie, at least don't do it to a small business owner. The cost to us in terms of lost time is just devastating when we lose all the time we spent training you, then have to repost the job, sort through resumes, call applicants, go through interviews, etc. Plus, depending on the business, it makes us look bad to have high turnover of employees. It's also bad for morale. It's a really shitty thing to do, seriously. I would imagine the impact is somewhat blunted for a large business that has its own HR department that they're paying anyway to deal with this crap, but for the little guy it hits hard.
posted by HotToddy at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Dude, this is what food service is for, chain restaurants and pizza delivery especially.

Or you could always do what several of my roommates have done over the years—borrow some cash from your parents, invest it in pot, and sell that to delivery drivers over the summer.
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2008

Temp agency. The jobs are all stupid office jobs, but they're stupid office jobs that pay a lot more than retail/foodservice. Dress nice, look clean and polite and you’ll be making between 10-15 dollars an hour in no time. Besides retail is a form of torture in some countries.
posted by French Fry at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2008

Nthing the 2-part suggestions:

1. Temp agency, tell the truth

2. Mega-chain retail/food service job, lie. Seriously, you should not feel guilty or feel you need to provide an elaborate explanation. They just want warm bodies

If you go with #1, here is some temp agency advice:
Increase your chances of getting an assignment by signing up with several temp agencies. Don't wait for them to call you; call them at the beginning of each week and ask if they have any assignments. (Last time I temped, I was a dork about this and kept little folders with notes and contact numbers for each agency.)
posted by thewrongparty at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2008

I was in almost the exact same position and I didn't lie and I didn't get a job, god it's the same damn position I'm in now.

Finally I got a really crappy job at some place where the girl interviewing me was so disorganized she didn't even ask. But despite the fact I only worked there six weeks, I think they were very happy they hired me, apparently no one had learned to use the register so quickly, they didn't even think it was possible in under a month, let alone a week.

I have to say before I went to law school I was constantly amazed at how so many small employers not only wanted, but expected, me to make a lifetime commitment to a job that literally paid $10 an hour, with no benefits. Same with temp jobs (with no end) would be just shocked, that after working for them for 8 weeks as a temp I would get a real job (or a better paying temp job) and leave, when I barely knew for more than a few days at a time whether I would still be working at the place. So I'm not telling you to lie, you really probably shouldn't for many reasons, but I don't think it's quite such a cut and dry issue, many employers are ridiculous (and not entirely rationale if their industry has a high turn over anyway). I do sympathize.
posted by whoaali at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2008

It seems to me that you just need to lower your standards in terms of the type of job that you're looking for.

Nicer jobs - the kind you feel pressured to lie to get - don't want short term employees because they have to put a *lot* of effort into training and orienting new people. On-the-job training can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months, while you're earning money and not producing what they need you for, yet. You're an investment to them, so seeing you vanish after 8 weeks is not in their best interest.

Jobs with higher turnover - McDonald's and the like - can certainly suck, but there will be no hard feelings left when you go, as they know you will.

Nthing the temp agency thing if you're really not into fast food. That's how I got through several years of high school and college - and if the job doesn't suck too bad, you can ask them if they'd be interested in having you come back next summer (that's how I got my first permanent position). Then you don't have to look around like this every year.

And oh, universities, colleges, and the like often have TONS of jobs just for the summer, as all their regular student employees are gone home.
posted by GardenGal at 4:38 PM on June 18, 2008

Seconding the "lie if it's a pathmark cashier/starbucks barista" since they have quick turnaround times and they know people don't stick around for long because they realize it's not their dream job. And I agree with the "change of heart" thing - just say you thought this is what you wanted but at the end of the summer you realized that you're going back to school.

Don't lie if it's something that you'll want to put on your resume.

Sucks to lie, but no other way to get a summer job really. By the time a temp agency gets back to you and stuff half the summer will be over.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:06 AM on June 19, 2008

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