I have a few words today for unemployed university and college students. Many of you are probably only now starting to look for summer work, something you should have started doing right after the new year. But that’s fine, I’m not going to scold you. I’m going to help you with a few tips.
The first and most important tip is to treat your job search as though it is an actual job - a good job with many benefits - and one requiring that you get up early every work day to spend a good portion of the day doing nothing but what the job requires. Put in a good week’s work in this manner and you can keep your weekends for yourself, as in the real world of work. Your advantage in looking for a job at this time of year is that with school done, you can devote lots of time to the challenge.
Now, consider your resources, and your desires. There’s the old saying that in matters of finding work, it’s not what you know, but who you know. I would like to put a spin on that by saying that it’s not either-or, it’s both-and.
What you know can steer you in the direction of the kind of work that interests you. For example, if your studies at school involve filmmaking, social work, or marketing, then you ought to pursue summer work at a film production house, a community service organization, or an advertising agency, respectively. Of course, there are only so many summer jobs available in any given field, so you should be prepared to get your hands dirty at jobs outside your field of interest.
At the same time, who you know is hugely important. Think through the entire network of people you know or to whom you are somehow connected. From relatives and close chums and their networks, through to all the near strangers who make up your hundreds of Facebook friends, help in finding work could be close at hand. Don’t be shy. Be bold in declaring your availability to the world, and bring passion and creativity to the table. Do not limit yourself geographically. Be prepared to travel anywhere in Canada – or the world for that matter – to get your summer job.
In mentioning Facebook, need I add that nowadays the Internet figures prominently in any job search. Not only that, but the Internet figures prominently in background checks by potential employers. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure that nothing you post online socially is off putting to those who are looking for a responsible employee. The least you can do is put your Facebook privacy settings right if you’ve got stuff posted that might give strangers the wrong impression. Anyway, it’s really nobody but your friends’ business that you occasionally like to dance naked at home alone, swinging your underpants over your head.
Having got your social house in order, I do not recommend that you rely on Facebook as a job search tool. It is simply an informal way to get the word out about yourself in the hope that a few friends can steer some information or advice about jobs your way. The social network to go to for matters of business is LinkedIn, where jobs are listed and discussed as a matter of course. My son, who is only 16, even has a LinkedIn account, so college level job seekers shouldn’t be intimidated by the crowd there.
For jobs, the Internet is your window to the world. Search not only through LinkedIn and the many general job sites that are available, but through sites belonging to specific companies and organizations. Keep a running list of all contacts and keep at them on a regular basis. In doing so, you’ve got two vitally important matters to consider – your resume and your covering letter. As I’m not a human resources specialist, I’m not here to provide an instant course in resume writing or how to prepare a good covering letter. But common sense tells me that you ought to put a lot of energy and effort into both these tools when applying for any job.
So educate yourself. There are all kinds of free information available online about smart ways to impress potential employers. My experience as an employer also tells me that you should always make the effort to know who specifically you are addressing for any job application. Do research if necessary to contact people by name and title. Address the specific job using keywords from the job posting, and highlight your strengths and accomplishments in relation to the work, even tailoring your resume in the process. At the very least, make a strong case for your honest eagerness to help out and learn.
As well, if you’ve got something to show that could relate to a job, then by all means show it. Get an online presence with a personal Web site based on all the free Web templates that are now available.
A good summer job is out there waiting for you, one that could help you on your career path, and one that will put coin in your pocket for the summer and for another year of hitting the books.
School’s over. It’s time to get to work.