How to get that summer job you want: tips for students looking for work experience

How do you convince someone to hire you for an internship or a summer job? Positivity, and the ability to put yourself in an employer’s shoes, are key

Nicola Chan |

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For those of you who are super prepared, we’re sure you’ve got a summer job (or two!) lined up already. If you’re anything like us, though, you might only just be thinking about applying for something to do when you’re not at school or university.

Before you send off your applications and CVs, here’s what career doctor Alison Chang told Young Post that readers need to know.

“A lot of the time, teenagers themselves don’t buy into the fact that they want or need a summer job,” the veteran headhunter said. This might be because they’re only doing it because people around them expect them

to – but this mindset is not helpful.

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“If you don’t take [a summer job] seriously, you won’t be able to learn anything from it, or show how it’s valuable to a future employer,” she said. Instead, Chang said, young people should take some time to think about why they want a summer job before applying for one.

“Ask yourself what you’d like to achieve by the end of it, and set your goals accordingly. You shouldn’t do anything without a focus or a reason.”

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Put yourself in their shoes

Once you’ve set your goals, you should put yourself in an employer’s shoes to improve your chances of being hired. One easy way to figure out what an employer needs is to imagine yourself as a delivery person, and the employer as your customer.

This exercise helps you to recognise the importance of matching your delivery – in this case your skills – to a person’s order or what an employer is looking for. In other words, your job application, cover letter, and job interview should reflect how your personality, experiences and skills will help you fulfil the needs of the job they are advertising.

“It might be as simple as your being the organiser of your school year’s graduation trip, or mentioning your volunteer experience teaching underprivileged students,” Chang said. These are important things that highlight what makes you a better person for the job than another candidate.

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Have good interview manners

Having good interview behaviour, once you’ve secured one, is also very important. If you are offered an interview slot that is at a time that isn’t possible for you to attend, you should make sure you let the company or person know in advance you wish to change it.

“If, however, something urgent comes up,” Chang said, “apologise, explain your situation, and reschedule the interview.” Rescheduling too many times can make you look as if you aren’t a very reliable person, though, or as if you aren’t very interested in the job.

If you realise that a job isn’t right for you in the middle of an interview, or after it, don’t be afraid to speak up. Chang said, when you realise this, you should let the employer know as soon as possible. You could, for instance, thank them for the opportunity, and that you’d like to learn from them in the future.

“Be thankful and grateful [because] … someone spent time talking to you, and you’re learning [regardless of the result],” she said. Avoid saying things like “I have a better [job] offer”.

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Stay positive

If you don’t get a job offer, you should still remain respectful and positive. Just because you get turned down for one job, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it for another interview. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, Chang said, because most employers are happy to let you know what you did and didn’t do right.

“Ask follow-up questions,” she said. “Say, ‘I’m interested in the position or the industry, could you give me some advice as to how I’m going to improve my chances in the future?”

Not everyone gets a job offer on their first try, but no matter if you’ve sent out one or 100 job applications, the most important thing is to remain positive. That way, any potential employer will see the best possible version of you – and someone they’ll definitely want to hire. Good luck!