Ready, aim, hire! Racing for a summer job
By Ciarra Rickard
We're all about to breathe a sigh of relief as the end of the school year approaches, it's like a weight is lifted after that last exam. But don't relax too much because there's a whole other stress factor about to enter your life finding a summer job.
Most of us know all too well the scarcity of jobs these days and the fierce competition amongst students to snag the best ones. To get ahead of the game and not end up flipping burgers for four months, you need to know the best job strategies.
"Start yesterday!" is Brad Lavigne's, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, advice on looking for summer employment. "Most frustration with regards to job hunting stems from students waiting until after exams to start looking. Most of the jobs are taken at that time."
Most companies want to have their hiring done by the time students are ready to enter the job market in May. So students who start looking at that time may be out of luck.
The first question to consider is where to start? "There are places like Canadian Student Employment Centres and employment agencies. The downfall of the agencies is that they cost money and they're not specifically designed for students.
"Employers register with employment centres and agencies and students can do the same and hope their skills match up with what the employers are looking for," Lavigne explains.
There are many resources out there to help students find jobs, it's just a question of finding out what those resources are and using them to the best of your advantage.
Ian Baillie, vice-president of co-operative affairs at the Carleton University Students' Association in Ottawa, offers advice on embarking on the job hunt.
"I would first suggest that they go to the career centre on campus that offers a job board or where there are people who are trained to place students in jobs. Talk to parents and family friends. It seems more and more that to find a job, you have to have an inside source. If you have any contacts, use them. It's gotten down to it's not what you but who you know."
Many students, by their third or fourth year have progressed enough in their area of study to take on a job in a related field. However, due to most students' lack of experience, this is not an easy task.
"If you're looking for a career-related job, use the phone book to find companies," suggests Kelly Foley, VP-education at the University of Waterloo. "Try to invent a job for yourself based on your skills. For example, if you see a company that doesn't have a web page and it's something you could design, convince them that they need a web page and that you're the one to do it."
An employer decides whether or not he or she is interested in giving you an interview based soley on how you present yourself. Therefore the resumé and cover letter are very important. "Sell yourself," Foley advises. It's important to fill your resumé with anything that might make you more appealing to potential employers, she said.
"Watch out for frills. Don't put your resumé on marbled paper and expect it to be a good resumé. Everybody's using marbled paper nowadays. It's what is on the resume that counts."
With such a competitive job market these days employers are seeking well-rounded applicants with a variety of interests and extra-curricular activities, including volunteer work.
"You should always be doing volunteer work, it has almost become a necessity," Foley explains. "You should find something you like and can stick to. Sometimes people get their full-time jobs with the companies they volunteer for."
One of the most nerve-racking aspects of finding a job is the job interview. After a potential employer takes an interest in your resumé, the interview is the final determinant as to whether or not you get the job. That's why it is crucial that the interviewee make the best possible first impression and show the interviewer that he or she is perfect for the job.
"It really all comes down to attitude," Anne Speirs, owner of Hunt Personnel, says. "If you've got the skills and you're willing to learn, a positive, upbeat attitude will certainly help get the job."