Pat’s take:This is a great (and timely) question. Now is the time to secure summer employment, not over spring break or when you get home after finals. I’d like to start by “slightly” modifying your question and then share several approaches and then let Susan chime in with her thoughts.
I would start by setting your goals a bit higher. How about an internship, versus a job. An internship can be almost anything you define it to be, as long as it’s somehow related to your future career interest, so let’s start there.
You can settle for a “job” if you don’t land an internship over the next month. Even if you’re “only” a freshmen, an internship is a possibility if you’re willing to do the work to get one (and at least consider working for less than your market value).
Here are a few proven approaches to get you on the right track in pursuit of your internship:
1. Plan for a marathon, not a sprint. Know that you may get 10 or 20 “no’s” before you get a yes.
Know that you’re going to have to get outside your comfort zone. Appreciate that what you’re attempting to do is difficult and take on a “I refuse to lose” mentality. You can get an internship, but you’re going to have to work hard to do it — and be pleasant and charming along the way to get someone to offer you a great opportunity.
2. Go to your school’s career center. Go early. Go often. In fact, go this week when you’re done with finals.
Ask them what opportunities are out there and what the process is to secure one of them. If you’re an underclassmen, you may find the options limited, but it is worth the trip. Also make sure they have your contact information and know that you’re willing to consider any opportunity so that you’d greatly appreciate them keeping you in mind when they hear of any.
Stopping by (or e-mailing) every week or two is persistence — and it will help make you top of mind when opportunities do pop up. Remember, you’re in “sales mode” here. Be your most charming and friendly self!
3. Plug your nose and network. Networking is a pretty unattractive concept for most students, but it’s the #1 way people get jobs, so it’s time to overcome your fear of it and put yourself out into the marketplace.
You know many more people than you think, so let them know what you’re trying to accomplish (a well-crafted e-mail is a starting point) and see who might be willing and able to help. You had 18 teammates on your club soccer team. That equates to 30+ professionals who may be able to help if you sent out an email to them. Add your church service group and there’s 20+ more families. How about your friend’s parents? How about your parents friends? Get the idea?
Be relentless. Look under every rock. Ask relevant professionals for an interview or to connect you with someone they know who might be able to help you. You can even send a follow up e-mail a week later as a reminder, as people are busy (and forgetful) during the holidays.
Pat’s Bottom Line: Landing an internship will not be easy. You’ll run into 10-20 dead ends for every interview you get, and you’ll need to get multiple interviews to get one offer.
In the end, however, it will be well worth the effort as next winter, you’ll have highly coveted “work experience” when interviewing for internships with top organizations in your field of interest.
Susan’s Take: Pat is right, winter break is the right time to start the process of finding a summer internship or job, but don’t let that fact overwhelm you this week. Take this week off and do NOTHING career-focused. Eat, sleep, and be merry. Once your mind and body have had time to come off their post-exams crash, make a commitment to follow the steps Pat outlined for you.
If, however, the thought of hearing no 10-20 times before you hear yes, stops you cold in your job hunting tracks, then consider these two slightly more “back-door” strategies for securing a summer internship:
1. Contact a relative, a long-time family friend, or a close colleague of your parents and ask if they will “create” an internship for you.
Offer to take a relatively low salary if necessary, work part-time or even work for free as long as you can have exposure to a field you are interested in pursuing as your career.
Not all organizations have formal summer internship programs, but your close contacts might be willing to create one for you as a favor as long as you can convince them that you can be useful and low-maintenance. When the words “summer internship” appear on your resume, no one needs to know how you got it.
2. Talk to your professors about working for them over the summer.
Professors, especially those who are doing research, are often very happy to have student assistants. It’s rarely a paid position, so you might need to pick up a less-than-glamorous paid job on the side, but working for a professor looks great on your resume and gives you a chance to develop the kind of relationship that leads to awesome recommendations letters.
Susan’s Bottom Line: Be bold, or be a little less than bold, but either way, go after your summer job/internship now. Winter break is the right time to secure summer employment, so after you’ve taken a well-deserved break, dive into the search using the proven strategies we’ve provided.
Are you transitioning from college to career or working in your first job after graduation? If so, we’d love to answer any question you may have related to career success. Send your first name, school, and/or employer to AskPatandSusan@gmail.com and we’ll try to address your question in a future article.
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