by Ethan Paquet
For many students, a summer job is a chance to prove they are responsible, to make their own money, and to meet new people.
It is also a chance to set the groundwork for career planning as they begin to network, pick up employability skills, build their resumé, and learn about what they want for their future. But without taking the right approach, it can be hard to land a summer job. Here are some steps to help you on your journey.
1. Understand what you are sacrificing and what you are gaining from this experience. Your first job will help you earn extra money and gain work experience, but you won’t have as much free time as before. Your schedule will revolve around your work, so you might not be able to spend as much time with your friends. If this sounds like too much to handle, it might be best to hold off for now so you aren’t setting yourself up for failure.
2. Early preparation. Before you can start working, you will need to have certain documentation for your employer.
- Social Insurance Number (SIN). This nine-digit number is necessary to work in Canada or to access government programs or benefits. To learn more, click here.
- A bank account to deposit your paycheques and to keep your savings. Many banks have options specifically for students, so be sure to shop around.
3. Consider your skills, talents, abilities, and interests. By knowing who you are and what motivates you, you can start thinking about where you can work that will allow you to find a good fit.
4. Visit The Employment Journey’s Job Search Tips, Videos & Job Fair Info page where you can find tips for resumés, cover letters, and job interviews, as well as videos about do’s and don’ts, career fair tips, explaining work experience, and more advice. The more confident and prepared you are, the more likely you are to find success.
5. Make a good impression through social media. Employers may search your name to see what they can find out about you. Think of your public profiles as your brand, and be diligent in avoiding offensive comments, inappropriate photos, or engaging in public conflicts. Create a new email address just for your career journey. That way, you won’t miss important messages. It is best to keep it simple – your first and last name is enough.
6. Prepare an effective resumé that will get noticed. An effective resumé is an important first introduction to a prospective employer. Hiring managers spend very little time scanning each resumé, so it needs to stand out and be easy to read. It should clearly show how your education, abilities, and experience fit the open position. For information on how to begin your resumé, click here.
If you have never worked a job or do not have work experience directly related to the job you are applying for, a skill-based or functional resumé can help highlight different experiences where you have gained skills relevant to the job you are applying for.
If you have taken part in an extra-curricular activity such as clubs or sports, you will likely pick up a variety of skills that an employer is looking for, such as working as part of a team, showing up on time, positive attitude, good communication skills, and more.
You might also choose to highlight some of the skills that you have picked up throughout your schooling, such as good attendance, good work ethic, or experience using computer programs.
7. Volunteering is a great way to network, pick up employability skills, and obtain references that you can use on your resumé. Here is an article discussing the benefits of volunteering. Find a list of the many volunteering options on PEI here.
8. References: Ask your coach or teacher for permission to use them as a reference on your resumé. That will prepare them to assure the hiring manager that you have what it takes to fit in at the workplace.
9. Begin your job search. Now that you are ready to put yourself out there, start by making a list of the employers you might like to work for, based on the type of work you are interested in.
- Talk to people who work in this field and get information about their employer.
- Visit www.employmentjourney.com and click Industries to explore companies that interest you.
- Go to job posting sites to learn about companies that are hiring: click here.
- Call or email employers and ask to meet with them. This is called an Informational Interview and this method works. It is a chance to find out more about the company, to give the employer your resumé in person, and to find out when they tend to hire and the qualifications they look for. For more information about informational interviews, click here.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. Give it about three days, then call back and ask if they had the chance to look at your resumé, and if they have any questions. Keep track of where you are applying. Even if you are not selected, the employer may be able to give you some leads to other companies that are hiring.
10. The job interview. Eventually, after putting in all this work, you will get a call for a job interview. It’s exciting, but don’t celebrate yet – there’s still work to be done. Plan what you will wear, set goals for yourself going into the interview, and think of questions you might have for the interviewer.
The interview is a chance to show why you are the best option for the job. Get comfortable talking about yourself and how you have added value to other jobs you have held, teams and clubs you were part of, or other experiences from your journey. For more about job interviews, click here.
If things don’t work out, leave the job the right way.
First jobs are a way to gain skills and experience, but they are also a chance to learn about yourself, your limits, and if it is something you would like to continue to do. If you feel exhausted or just don’t like your job, you are not alone.
Almost everybody has had a job that didn’t work out for them. What is most important is to leave the job in the right way, with an experience and a reference you can put on your resumé.
Give the employer notice before you leave. Your employer might not even be aware you are struggling, so having an honest conversation can allow them to help you overcome your obstacles or make your departure as easy and polite as possible.
Continue to show up on time, maintain a positive attitude, and be polite. Even if this job isn’t the right fit, you want the employer to know that you are professional and dedicated. This reference will matter as you move into further jobs, so try your best to keep it a positive experience.