Monday, 21 January 2013

What are you doing this summer?

With temperatures well below freezing and lots of that white stuff on the ground, summer is probably one of the furthest things from your mind - unless you're pining for warm, sunny days, that is! If you're a student who plans on working this summer you should start thinking about your job search soon, especially since our annual Summer Job Fair is coming up on Thursday, 31 January (10 am to 4 pm in the Butterdome). At the time of writing this blog post, over 75 organizations were registered to take part in the event which is over a week away.

The ideal summer job for many students is one related to the type of work they want to do post graduation - ideal because they can test the waters to see if they enjoy that type of work. They can gain relevant work experience and skills. And they can make professional connections they can turn to for referrals and references when they start looking for work once they complete their degree.

Unfortunately, not all students are able to find a summer job in their field of choice. However, that doesn't mean there are no career-related benefits from working in another field or even in a job that doesn't require post-secondary education.

All of my summer jobs were physical labour type jobs. The job I had the summer before the final year of my undergraduate degree was with one of the student painting companies that hire a lot of students during the summer. (The outdoor painting season is short in Alberta!) What career-related benefits did I gain from that job, you ask? Lots of transferable skills. For example, over 90 percent of the time I was working with just one other student. We generally saw our supervisor only when we started a new job. My co-worker and I had to decide who would do what and in what order, and we represented the company to the home owner. The skills we needed to do our job well included interpersonal communication, teamwork, time management, organizational skills and customer service skills.

Recognizing the skills you develop through the jobs you do, as well as though volunteer work and extra-curricular activities, is one challenge. Communicating them to potential employers – on your resume and in an interview setting, for example – is another. Too often I see resumes from students that simply state what they did in a job (e.g. painted houses) and don't include anything about the skills they used, the type of work environment (e.g. worked with no direct supervision) or accomplishments (e.g. completed all jobs in less time than budgeted). So when you sit down to write your resume or prepare for an interview, think not only about what you did in your past jobs but also how you did it and what were the results. Ask someone to look over your resume, like a CAPS career advisor. They can help you identify your skills and target your resume to the job you want.

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