Academic

Five things everyone should know before starting their first summer job

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Sadaf Virji
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School might be out for summer, but for many students, the real work has only just begun. 


A job might not sound like the most fun way to spend your summer, but it can be instrumental in launching your future career. That’s because summer jobs set a foundation for career development, help you build your professional network, and allow you to gain a deeper understanding of what you want—and more importantly, don’t want—out of your future career. 


If you have to be at work this summer, you might as well get the most out of the experience. Here are five ways to do just that. 


1. Treat it like an interview

Summer jobs can be a jumping-off point for future career opportunities, but only if you really take it seriously. Treat those months like a summer-long interview process, because, in a lot of ways, it is. Those who are able to impress can begin building their careers with a strong reputation, great references and the makings of a professional network. 


2. Network, network and then network some more 

When you begin looking for a permanent position, research suggests you’re much more likely to land a role through networking than by responding to a formal job application. As a student, building that network can be difficult, which is why it’s so important to take advantage of any opportunity you have to connect with those in your industry. A summer job is the perfect opportunity to do just that. 


3. Do your homework 

There’s a lot you can do in the time between school and work to better prepare for your first day on the job. Start by reading up on the organization and the industry so you have some understanding of their customers, competitors, priorities and concerns. You should also consider sending an introductory email to your new boss and/or colleagues, and perhaps inquire about the company dress code to ensure your closet is up to their standards. 


4. Keep your eyes open

Summer jobs are often your first opportunity to get a real taste of your future career, so it’s important to pay close attention to what you like—and don’t like—about the experience. A summer-long contract is the perfect amount of time to get a sense of the work world you’ll be entering after school, so experiment, try as many different tasks and projects as you can volunteer for, and take some time to reflect on what you want to do more of, and less of, in the future. 


5. Be professional

Summer jobs are one of your first opportunities to prove yourself in a professional setting, and you shouldn’t take that opportunity lightly. Though you may be stuck in the mailroom or getting people their coffee it’s important to show up on time, maintain a positive attitude, and to be polite. After all, the folks you meet with this summer may be giving you a reference—or even a job—in the near future, but only if you prove to them that you can be professional. 


Though summer jobs are temporary, their impact can last a lifetime. They offer students the perfect opportunity to gain some work experience, build a professional network and do a little bit of self-discovery along the way. If you’re going to be stuck inside all summer you might as well make the most of it, so take it seriously, prepare accordingly, and show up ready to give it your best shot. After all, it might prove to be the foundation on which you build the rest of your career.

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