What happens when you can’t afford to take that unpaid internship and your summer job seems like the most random, thankless set of tasks you’ve ever done? Make your summer job work for you!Once you figure out the qualities employers are looking for, you can discover how your summer job may actually be building you into a perfectly marketable employee! There is value beyond the skimpy paycheck. Communicate this to potential employers and you’ll elevate yourself out of that summer job and into that paid internship or position!The first thing to do is get an idea of what employers are really looking for. The more specific to your ideal position you can get with employer desires, the better. There are a few ways you can do this.
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- Do some online research
- Talk to upperclassmen/grads who work or intern
- Speak with professionals in your field and your college administration about who they hire. Taking the time to ask shows great initiative and they will REMEMBER you.
Check out “The Top Ten Things Employers Look for in New College Graduates” on the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Website. A great list. (What they don’t include is that you probably need to know somebody too. Connections never hurt, and that’s why you shouldn’t be shy about reaching out early on to those in your field!)
Alas, you sigh and say, “How am I supposed to gain experience when I don’t have the valuable work experience they want? I work at a dairy farm but I want to be a [something other than a dairy farmer] !” Once you're familiar with what employers want, the next piece is to realize the value in your current experience. Employers don’t have time to look for it, you have to show them.
Regardless of the job, when discussing your work experience with a potential employer you have to show you had goals, took initiative to learn and grow and can now transfer your Top Ten Traits to their goals.
“Mr. Interviewer, I flipped burgers.”- Not impressed.
“Mr. Interviewer, I exceeded my company quota of 800 burgers in a day and then took initiative to add to our blog in my free time.” -Now you have the attention. And if Mr. Interviewer remembers you from last year when you asked him what employers look for? –He becomes Mr. Employer.Here are some peers and professionals in the higher education field (big cheeses!) who’ve shared their WORST summer jobs. Believe it or not, some of these big cheeses were putting cheese on burgers when they were in your shoes too. And you know what? They learned. Find the value in your summer job.
Noah Fox, Director of Housing Operations: Tiffin University
“I would have to say one of the worst summer jobs I ever had was working on a duck farm (hatchery). As you can imagine, the work was very dirty. Cleaning out duck barns full of duck droppings was probably the worst part of the job.” “What did you learn?”
- Learned value of hard work
- Practiced effective time management
- Built commonalities and fostered lasting professional relationships.
“These lessons I learned have helped me tremendously throughout my time in the workforce.”Ty Krueger, SWACURH Regional NRHH Advisor“I worked in the records/registrar's office one summer and spent the entire summer taping documents to sheets of paper to be scanned.” “What did you learn?” “The tape and paper has to be flat so it doesn't jam the printer, hah!” "But seriously…"
“Even the most menial of tasks have a purpose and in the long run, helping someone is a valuable reward.”Bill Pickett, Senior Director of Student Involvement: University of Nebraska, Omaha
“I worked at McDonald's. I smelled like fries and nuggets every day. I opened for breakfast and then lunch, 5am-2pm in the summer! McInsane! I will tell you, I learned a lot.“What did you learn?”
- I enhanced my ability to work with a team
- Applied creative problem solving to meet company goals
- Learned to work effectively under pressure
- Honed customer service techniques and developed relationships with customers
“It was honestly like a housing job... you learn a variety of things that will help in any field from jobs you may not expect to learn from.”
There is a reason they call jobs “opportunities”. Any job, regardless of how many feathers, droppings, tape, or burgers are involved, is an opportunity to learn and grow. Take your Top Ten Traits with you to your next interview. When an interviewer sees the value in you, you will earn that paid internship or job and you’ll be prepared. By this time, you’re no stranger to hard work!
Share YOUR worst summer job and what you learned in the comment field below.