In some parts of the country, it’s 20 degrees outside and the sidewalks are icy, and the last thing on your mind is hunting for a summer job. But don’t be fooled: summer break starts in three short months, and it’s never too early to start lining up work.
Maybe you’re home for the summer, maybe you’d gotten an internship in another state city, or maybe you’re planning to stay right on campus. No matter: summer job opportunities abound! Check with local businesses. Check with your academic department and the career center. Check the student employment job listing. Heck, it’s the twenty-first century—check Facebook! My school, for example, has a Facebook page dedicated solely to sharing job opportunities with current students and alumni.
So you’ve found some summer positions you’d like to apply to. What now? If you don’t already have a resume
, it’s time to write one
. The job likely will want you to complete an application
and perhaps even submit a cover letter
. A cover letter accompanies your resume. Think of it as a chance to explain your resume a little more personally (resumes, after all, are incredibly dull): you should briefly introduce yourself, express your interest in the job, and highlight one or two particular skills you’d be bringing to the position. Employers are more likely to be drawn to individualized applications, and the best way to individualize your application is through the cover letter and interview. The cover letter should make your potential employer interested
in reading your resume.
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If the employer likes your application, you’ll next be called in for an interview
Don’t be too worried: an interview is just a (professional) conversation all about you!
I actually interview student workers each semester for positions in my office, so I can tell you what mistakes I see over and over again and, by contrast, what I see that makes an applicant stand out.
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The number one mistake I see is actually quite an easy one to fix. When your interviewer asks, “Why are you interested in this position?” do not
, under any circumstances, mention money. Of course
you’re applying to this position because you need to earn money—that’s why anyone works. The interviewer is looking for you to connect your personal interests with the needs of the company. Think: what would I be doing in this position each day that excites me?
Make sure also to read the job listing in full. This may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s painfully obvious (to the interviewer) that the applicant hasn’t
. Sometimes applicants come to interview for what they think
the position is (or what they’d like it to be), rather than what the position actually is. It’s okay to use language from the listing in your interview—I’d encourage it, actually! Employers want to see that you’ve paid attention to the details and are interested in the specific position they need filled.
When interviewing student employees, I appreciate most when an applicant is able to take unrelated work/internship experience, extract one or two specific skills from it, and apply those to the advertised position. I know that many college students, especially freshman, don’t have vast work experience (or even any work experience), but the interviewee who can say, “As my high school student council treasurer, I headed the finance committee and managed the budget, which instilled in me an attention to detail and taught me how to lead a small group” or “Working as a cashier in my hometown’s cafe, I sometimes opened the restaurant, which taught me to be punctual and reliable. In taking orders at the counter, I learned to manage guests’ expectations politely and professionally” is the student that I’m going to want to hire.
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