When the summer months approach, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of warm weather, shorts, sandals, and leaving the house without a coat. In all of this, it can be hard to make yourself think about responsibilities, jobs, and financial realities. Alas, while the summer is certainly the time for tan lines and big, floppy hats, it is also the prime opportunity to gain marketable skills, valuable experience, and monetary sustenance for the year to come.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep you ahead of the game heading into the summer job hunt:
1. Revamp your resume
Some people haven’t re-done their resumes since the 10th grade; every time they get additional job experience, they just add it to the top of the list, and they end up with a four page opus of out-dated experience, unnecessary skill descriptions, and all of the awards they won at their high school graduation. Unfortunately, no one looking to hire you for an internship or career-style work cares that you successfully ran a paper route for $0.05 a paper when you were 11. Those same hiring managers do not care that you were awarded the English award at your high school convocation. They want to see that you have relevant, recent experience and translatable skills that will make you the best possible employee for their company.
So, if you find that your resume is stretching beyond one page, cut it down. Make three or four separate, specified resumes: one for retail work, one for office work, one for working with kids, and so on. Categorize your experience and tailor each resume’s focus to the specific field. Label this section your “Relevant Work Experience” or “Selected Work Experience.” When you discuss this experience, do so in “achievement statements.” Instead of listing the things you were asked to do at a specific position, show the hiring manager what you personally accomplished at that job and how you contributed to the overall success of that company during your time there.
You can also eliminate any education that occurred before college or university. Your degree title, your major and minor, your GPA, and any relevant awards or achievements at the post-secondary level are all fair game for inclusion. The clubs you were involved in during the ninth grade and your graduating high school average are not.
2. Look for jobs every day
There are a plethora of job-search resources available to you in this modern internet era. Check your LinkedIn daily, both for opportunities to make connections which might lead to jobs and for the new job postings that go up every hour. Go on every job search engine you can get your hands on. Check your local city government website for great seasonal and contract work options. Check the websites for specific companies that you’d like to work for, and bookmark their hiring information page. Check back constantly to see when new opportunities come up.
Don’t be afraid to step away from the computer, either. Print out your resumes and dress yourself up; make sure your hair is professional and in place and wear nice shoes. Step out into the sunlight and into that “concrete jungle” and talk to people, face to face. Ask if they’re hiring, ask if they might be hiring at any point in the near future, leave your resume with them, and always be grateful, no matter the outcome.
3. Never underestimate the power of a good cover letter
You might think that you don’t need a cover letter unless the job posting specifically asks for one. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but there is great power in the cover letter to make your application stand out amongst the rest, whether it is demanded or not.
Make sure that your cover letter highlights the specific key words and requested skills from the job posting, but not in a dry, straight-up list format. Try to think of your cover letter like a persuasive essay: your goal is to persuade the hiring manager that you are the best possible candidate in that pile. Open with something interesting and engaging – a quote, a question, an interesting fact – to keep the reader’s attention. Highlight your strengths and how you acquired them; showcase the gratitude you feel for the wonderful opportunities you’ve already been afforded. Subtly – but not too subtly – note the ways in which your strengths and experiences align perfectly with the company’s values and the position’s requirements.
4. Repeat after me: No job is beneath you
You may think that only a high-profile office job or internship is worth your time and dedication, but you would be surprised at what you can learn from the jobs that you might write off as “beneath you.” Customer service work not only teaches valuable people skills but also creates a space to learn patience, time management, visual management, and teamwork. Work with kids, work in the food industry, and other menial work serve to teach similar skills, and you never know who you will meet, who they will know, and what connections you could make now that will help you out later on down the road.
So, whip out that resume, dust off your cover letter template, and get ready to rack up some meaningful experience, some valuable skills, and some long-lasting connections as you move forward in your career.