Want to land an extraordinary summer job? College career counselors have some blunt advice for you: Get going. Now.
"I emphasize with job searchers that it takes three to five months to find a summer job," says Andrea Dine, associate director of the Career Development Center at Macalester College.
Becky Hall, central career development coordinator at the University of Minnesota and a consultant with the university's Health Careers Center, concurs: "There are a lot of career fairs happening on campuses right now. If students don't get on the ball, they'll miss out on a lot of good opportunities.
A methodical approach will boost your odds of success, Dine says. By planning now, you won't have to settle for "just a job" or suffer through a last-minute summer job search. Use this timeline as your guide:
February and March
- Determine the type of summer job you want. Develop a list of criteria, including:
- Assess your current skill set, either by yourself or with a counselor at your school's career center, to determine which key skills an employer might need this summer.
- With guidance from a campus career counselor, develop a basic resume and cover letter to apply for summer positions.
- Begin looking for specific job opportunities using:
- Online resources like Monster.
- Friends, family members, relatives, professors and others who can direct you toward job possibilities.
- City-specific resources.
- Continue looking for job opportunities.
- Start applying for jobs, being sure to follow the employer's directions. Some companies require a resume and cover letter. Others want you to fill out a company application.
- Ask professors, previous coworkers and supervisors, and others who know you professionally if they'll serve as references. If possible, have each person write you a one-page letter of recommendation to give prospective employers.
- Follow up with companies you've applied to. Make sure your materials have been received and that each company has everything it needs to consider you.
- If possible, schedule interviews with companies of interest.
- Start researching housing options for summer if applicable.
- Practice answering summer job interview questions, either with a friend or a career center counselor at your school. Research companies and jobs before the interview.
- Finalize summer living arrangements.
- Schedule job interviews.
- Go on job interviews, and follow up with thank-you notes.
- If the right job is offered, accept it.
- If you don't have a solid line on a job, get some help from your school's career center -- preferably before spring semester ends if your summer plans will take you away from campus. You can also step up your networking efforts. Ask your parents, friends, professors and others if they know of available summer jobs.
- Show up for your first day on time and prepared.
- Talk to your new supervisor about the skills you'd like to further develop.
- Go beyond the minimum to make a good, lasting impression on your supervisor and coworkers.