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Seven summer work strategies to get the most out of your university break

April 10, 2017 — 

Are you planning to work this summer? Don’t just settle for anything. When you’re looking for a summer job, be strategic. Whether you need the paycheque, hope to apply your education, or you’re just excited to spend a few months trying something new, summer work is a great opportunity for students. Here are seven ways to get the most out of your summer job.

  1. Test drive your career choice before you commit full time

If you’ve never tried something, how do you know if you even like it? Peek into the world of work for four months. Develop and test your skills in an area similar to your chosen career path. Meet your future coworkers and clients. Be critical. Reflect. You might confirm that you’re on the right track, which can be a great motivator when you’re back at school and need that extra push to keep your work ethic up. You might also discover that the field does not fit you as well as you expected. If you catch it early, you can redirect and figure out the right path for you. If you need us, Career Services is here to help.

  1. Build the skills you’ll need for full-time employment

Hiring managers want to see that you can apply the amazing skills you’re building through your degree to the workplace. Consider the skills that professionals in your field require. Finding related job postings or searching your career in the NOC are great ways to discover the competencies you’ll need to land that job after graduation. Save those postings. Create a checklist. Make it your goal to check off each skill you need before convocation. If your future career requires teamwork, seek out summer work that involves collaboration. If you’ll need experience with customer service, AutoCAD, or peregrine falcons, use your summer job as a way to get those skills on your resume.

  1. Gain experience with your future clientele

Employers will be impressed if you’ve been exposed to the practical needs and personal experiences of their clients before they hire you. Get this key information on your resume by working or volunteering with that population this summer. If you plan to work with children when you graduate, you should probably meet a couple first. If your future occupation will involve developing relationships with agricultural clients, find a summer job that will get you in touch with farmers. The same goes for every other population you plan to spend your career helping, healing, or working with.

  1. Experience different employment environments

Want to work in government? Government student work programs like FSWEP and STEP will get you into that environment. Fascinated by an industry? Get in touch with the specific organization you want to work with to see if they’re interested in hiring you as a summer student. Summer work can introduce you to industry- or organization-specific knowledge that will make you stand out in your post-graduation job search. Sometimes it’s not possible to work in the exact environment you’re seeking: summer certainly isn’t the peak employment time at elementary schools, especially if you haven’t made much of a dent in your education degree. In that case, find a similar setting, like a summer camp. The same goes for many health professions or students very early in their program. If you know the exact location is off limits for now, be creative. Think up similar institutions and work there. If you’re stumped, advice from a Career Consultant on campus is a great place to start.

  1. Meet the people who could hire you full time

Summer work opens up valuable networking opportunities. You have the chance to not only build a relationship with individuals who could connect you to full-time employment someday, but you also get to prove your skills to your summer boss. Work hard, show your passion, and make the best impression you can. When you demonstrate how much you care about your work, you’d be surprised how much your coworkers and supervisors will be willing to help you. If a full-time job isn’t available with that organization when you graduate, your hard work can still inspire them to introduce you to outside opportunities or encourage them to be a strong reference when you apply for work.

  1. Maximize your “survival” job

Sometimes finding work in your field is not possible or realistic, for financial reasons or due to timing. You might simply need to secure a job that can help you pay your rent. Maximize your “survival” job by reflecting on the great transferable skills you’re building. Servers develop strong communication skills in a fast-paced environment. Store clerks build superior customer service skills. Summer labourers work as a team and gain an understanding of safe work procedures. It might surprise you how many relevant skills come out of seemingly unrelated jobs, especially with a little creativity and smart marketing on your resume.

  1. Use your “extra” time for career development

You work hard and deserve a bit of a break in the summer, but if you can squeeze it in, use your summer to take on other activities outside of work that can build your resume. This could mean getting in touch with someone who is currently working in your field to see if they will let you pick their brain for career advice over coffee. Set up a job shadow with an interesting professional. Find a volunteer position that will build your skills or introduce you to a new network. Starting early in your degree and intentionally seeking career building experiences will pay off when you graduate.  Career Services is also here to support you in every aspect of your career journey – whether it is exploring your options, targeting your experience, or marketing yourself in your job search. Check out our online resources or come for drop-in if you want to talk.

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