Making Your Summer Job Work For You

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summer job picWhat 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.

  • Do some online research     linkedin     poynter     glassdoor    higheredjobs
  • 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.

interview

“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.

 

I Threw Out the Bait, Where’s the Nibble: Trying to snag a new job

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You may have heard that the job field is a dog eat dog world in today’s competitive market. While this may be true, you are perfectly equipped and qualified to go in and rock that interview. You’ve read over the job description and you have the experience. You’re feeling confident and excited about going in and meeting your potential new co-workers and “wowing” them during the interview. Always remember, it’s okay to be nervous! Being nervous shows that you care about making a good first impression, which is always the most important thing to do.

You pick out your perfect outfit and make sure everything is ironed and ready to go with every hair groomed and in place. You get to your interview ten minutes early and you’ve remembered to bring a copy of your resume. You’re confident, and prepared.

After what seems like two hours waiting in anticipation, you’re called back and interviewed on your skill sets. You’re a little nervous, but you hide it with confidence and answer any question they throw your way. The interview ends, and you feel like it went really well.

The first part is to congratulate yourself for being proactive and shooting for success. Showing up early with a copy of your resume shows organization and dedication. You stepped into that office showing them that you were ready to contribute to bettering their business. Regardless of the outcome of the interview, you have gained important experience that will help you improve for your next time.

The interview lasts for about 15 minutes and then it’s over. All that anticipation for 15 minutes, you’re relieved. Your interviewers shake your hand and thank you for coming in. You walk out of your interview to 4 texts from your friends and 5 from your mom asking you how it went. You felt it went really well, and you’re not afraid to talk about it. You know it takes a few days for potential employers to get back to you, so you go through the rest of your week with your phone attached to your hip, just in case.

A week goes by, and then two. You still haven’t heard anything. You check your e-mail constantly and refresh your inbox to see if anything new came in. Maybe they forgot your number or you accidentally wrote down the wrong information in your nervous panic. Maybe they hated your interview and don’t even want to speak to you ever again. Maybe your breath was so offensive during the review of your resume that you clouded their judgment and they forgot who you were.

The truth is the answer is none of the above. You really DID do great on your interview, and they’re more than likely keeping you in the back of their head as they grow a running list of candidates. Sometimes we get so excited about job interviews that we forget that other people need to be interviewed for the position as well. And, in most cases, the interview is done in waves, where a smaller group is selected and then re-interviewed (either in person or via phone) to find the ultimate candidate. Just be patient. Know that you did your best and that you are just as qualified as anyone else they interviewed.

Make sure you follow up after your interview and after sending your resume to stay on track with the process. This doesn’t mean call five times a day, but sending a nice, “Hi Joe, this is Sarah. Just checking to see if you’ve received my resume and if there’s anything else I can provide you with during this process” e-mail is a good way to re-iterate your interest in the company. Keeping touch while polishing your image with things such as a personalized cover letter for your resume are the cherry on top of that perfectly frosted cupcake. It shows that you’re really interested in the position, and want them to know so.

When you finally do get that call, just remember that regardless of if you got the position or not, you tried your hardest, and that’s what counts. You’ve gained the experience and know what to expect for your next interview. Maybe there are some things you’d like to do differently, or maybe you want to knock it out of the ballpark in the future like you did with this one.

The call with the job offer is one of the best moments ever. You feel so accomplished and qualified. All your hard work and following up was worth it, and now you’ve snagged that awesome position. No more staying up late playing video games and going to late movie showings with your friends during the weekday anymore. You are now employed, and would like to stay that way!

If the call doesn’t turn out how you expected and they decided to go a different direction with their choice of hire, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of job opportunities out there for you that are waiting for you to send off your resume. Sometimes, you can ask the interviewer why they went with a different candidate, and they may tell you they were looking for someone with a bit more experience, or maybe they won’t. The important part of this is to learn how to reflect on what happened, and take it in constructively for future interviews. Don’t get discouraged, you WILL find that perfect job and it will be worth it when you get it. Be proud of yourself for the effort, relax a bit and try again tomorrow.