Make the most of summer job
Flipping burgers again? Don't despair - you're still learning valued skills
Linda White, Special to QMI Agency
With a year or more of post-secondary studies under your belt, you were sure this would be the summer to land a career-focused job. Instead, you find yourself once again flipping burgers or entertaining little ones at summer camp. But don't despair — you're still learning skills valued by today's employers.
"It's important to manage expectations and recognize that building up to the dream job is a gradual process," says Elaine Fenner, manager of student success at Seneca College in Toronto. "There is a lot you can take from the jobs leading up to the dream job."
Whether working in a traditional summer job like lifeguarding, retail, fast food or camp counselling, you're gaining valuable people skills and learning about responsibility and accountability, she explains.
"Depending on the position, you may also be building computer literacy or numeracy skills while getting a chance to meet different people and network," Fenner says. "It's important to recognize that you don't want to burn any bridges. Maybe you're studying accounting and are working as a bank teller. The bank may offer other positions you can work towards."
If you're working in an office environment, you're developing an understanding of workplace culture and perhaps also a culturally diverse environment. "There's so much you can pull from those experiences that will help you in the next job that may be closer to your dream job," Fenner says.
Show initiative. Are there ways to complete a task more efficiently, such as using social media to better market a service or product? "That may be an opportunity to go above and beyond and really make an impression with the employer," says Fenner.
Don't let your disappointment overshadow the transferrable skills you're gaining, such as customer service or time-management skills, and being able to work within a team or without supervision, reminds Joanne McDonald, manager of career services and student activities at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
She points to the Conference Board of Canada Employability Skills. "Employers are looking for good communication and problem-solving skills, people with positive attitudes and behaviours — no matter what type of work they're doing," McDonald says.
"They're looking for employees who are adaptable, and can work independently and as part of a team, depending on the work scenario. Those skills are in demand across the board "¦ Customer service, for example, isn't limited to being at a cash register. Here at the college, students are our clients."
Showing pride in your appearance and your responsibilities will go a long way. Regardless of the kind of work you're doing, you're beginning to build a network of contacts and you never know who can help open a door to a great opportunity in the future.
"Behave like you want to be there, even if there are aspects of the job you don't feel connected to or don't want to do for the rest of your life," McDonald says. "You want to leave a lasting positive impression. The opposite can follow you for a very long time."
Be sure to get a letter of reference at the end of your job instead of waiting until you need it. Keep track of your accomplishments — such as increasing sales — and give firm numbers for added credibility. "Remember that your resumé is not a static document," says Fenner.
"It's dynamic and should evolve along with each work and/or volunteer experience."
And don't lose sight of the bottom line: regardless of the job you've landed, you're earning the money needed to continue your studies.