Summer jobs aren’t just about making money. Whether you’re in high school or college, they can also be a great starting point to your future career. “Some firms will extend an offer to a student in college even if they have a year left,” says Michael Edmondson, PhD, the Associate Vice President of Career Development at Augustana College. To increase the chances of landing a job with your summer employer, there are a variety of things you can do—and it starts before you even step through the company doors.
Prepare for the Job
According to Judi Lansky, of Lansky Career Consultants in Chicago, start by researching the company and appropriate behavior in the industry of this employer. Since, chances are, this is also your first professional job, she also advises, “Talk with family, fellow students, career placement staff to get coaching about how best to dress, behave, speak etc. in the workplace.”
Demonstrate Your Professionalism
First impressions play a big role, too, and that’s why it’s important to arrive on time on your first day, as well as every subsequent day after that. When you start your summer job, Edmondson also recommends doing three things:
- Know your job responsibilities. “If there is no human resources department, the student should get clear written guidelines from their manager.”
- Understand the different areas of the organization. “Even if the organization only has five employees, the student should take an interest in learning the value of everyone’s position.”
- Have a can-do attitude at all times. “Work can be tedious and boring at times. It’s important that the student understand this and keep a positive approach each day.”
Show a Willingness to Learn
A new job often means new tasks. Lansky recommends putting together a status report on what you’re accomplishing on a weekly basis. “You can also ask to meet with the boss on a regular basis and have a prepared agenda of well-thought out questions,” Lansky says. This will demonstrate your willingness to learn as well as your desire to grow within the company early on.
Network & Communicate
No matter what the industry, networking is important. That’s because, as Edmondson says, “Networking is a distinct form of communication that allows others to get a sense of how the student would fit into the organizational culture. Fitting in with the culture has become a top priority as organizations focus on employee retention and development.”
Lansky wholeheartedly agrees, pointing out that by building out networking relationships early on, even during part-time work, students show that they know how to develop solid networking skills.
Along the same lines, communicate. Communication is one of the most necessary of skills. “The one critical skill employers are looking for in prospective candidates is communication,” says Edmondson. “Towards the end of their summer job a student can then ask their manager if they can work full-time or part-time during the school year. Networking and successfully fitting into the culture speaks volumes when the manager has to make a decision to keep the student on board. All too often students make the mistake of thinking that doing a good job is the only thing that matters. It does indeed matter; but being competent must be coupled with fitting into the organizational culture.”
If a student is heading back to school, it’s still quite feasible to land a job upon graduation, or work part-time—even remotely—with their summer employer. To increase the odds of that happening, stay connected to the company, says Edmondson.
- Connect online, especially through LinkedIn.
- Be personal. “Send a hand written thank you note upon completion of the summer job.”
- Be upfront about your career plans. “The student needs to explicitly state that they would like to work at that company upon graduation.”
- Suggest part-time work if you’re still in school. “Ask to complete a short term project for the company while in school.”
- Remain in good academic standing. Even if a student is offered a job upon graduation, this isn’t a free pass to slack off. Continue to “work hard at developing their personal and professional skills.”
While all of this important, keep in mind that it is up to the employer to hire a student after graduation. A lot of factors go into that decision. But as Edmondson hopefully notes, “Since luck is the intersection of where preparedness meets opportunity, the student needs to do as much as possible to get lucky and work for the company they love.”
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not blogging about food, she’s working part-time at a culinary vacation company, The International Kitchen, based in the Windy City, as well as repping Younique cosmetics and skincare products. Some of her writing can be found at Examiner.com.