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It’s that time of year when college students pack up their dorm rooms and head home for the summer. With their eyes focused on next September, they put together a resume and pound the pavement to find a summer job — ANY summer job.

Many of these jobs will be a less-than-enjoyable means to an end so that students can scrape together enough money for next semester. If your summer job doesn’t fit your idea of the perfect job and it’s easy to adopt the mindset “I just need to get through the next few months and I won’t have to do this ever again.”

It’s easy to take a short term view, but I’d like to reframe what you think of that summer job and how you can use it to help you improve your future job prospects.

Think Further Ahead

Think about what will happen in your life when you graduate from college in just a couple of years: You’ll probably need to rent an apartment, furnish it, get a car and pursue your career. You may meet a serious romantic partner.

All of these thing require credit (yes, ALL of them!). You may need a good credit score to rent that apartment, to borrow money to furnish it, to lease a car. You may, in certain cases, need a good credit report to help you get a job and keep it. And we’re even seeing romantic relationships end based over credit scores.

To get all of these things in just a couple of years, and to get these things at an attractive interest rate that you can afford, you need one thing: a record of your good credit habits and history.

Your credit report is that record of your credit habits and history, and your credit score is a number derived from that record. You can check your credit report for free from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies once a year, and you can monitor your credit score for free once a month using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card.

Your Summer Job DOES Matter

You might detest the summer job you have right now because you only see it as a way to scrape together some money for next semester. But what you really have is a stepping stone that can allow you to start building those good credit habits and history. The decisions you make today with your job and the money you are earning from it will have repercussions on your future life and career.

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Using some of your money, open up a couple of credit accounts in your name, such as a low limit credit card and a cell phone. Keep these in good standing and pay them off in full and on time.
  • Keep good records of where you worked this summer and how much you made, since you may rely on this information as part of your employment history when applying for credit.
  • Start adopting good credit habits like carefully budgeting your money, using credit responsibly and regularly paying off your debt.

And on those particularly rough days when you can’t wait to get back to school, remember that this summer job isn’t a “time out” from life. It’s a building block to healthier credit, and the wise moves you make today can help your future job prospects and pay dividends in the future.

Image: iStockphoto

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