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Maximize your summer job

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Once you’ve got your feet wet, consider how you can maximize the value of your summer job.

You’ve been offered a summer job that will help you earn the money you need to return to school in the fall; still, you’re worried it’s not the dream job that would help you build your resume with skills that complement your studies. Don’t let that hamper your ability to develop valuable experience.

“Any type of job you land is a relevant experience, even if you don’t think it’s relevant to your program of study,” says Angie Paisley, career advisor at Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

“Soft skills like learning how to work as part of team are very important to employers. How well you communicate with customers, punctuality, attendance, responsibility and dependability — those things just can’t be taught,” Paisley says.

Perhaps most importantly, it will demonstrate your ability to stick things through. “Tenacity — sticking with something no matter what — will be such a value down the road,” Paisley says. “Even if you land your dream job, there are going to be tough days.”

Once you’ve got your feet wet, consider how you can maximize the value of your summer job. “If you’ve identified what kinds of skills you’d like to develop, you can make any job more challenging and related,” says Jenny Peach, Job Search Programs co-ordinator at York University’s Career Centre in Toronto.

Get involved

She encourages you to seek out new initiatives or offer to get involved with other projects. Are you performing a task you think could be done more efficiently or cost effectively? The relationship you have with your manager or supervisor should dictate the best way to approach the topic.

“In general, before even approaching them, really think through the problem and your proposed solution. Be clear about the variables and your arguments,” Peach says. “If and when you decide to present your suggestion, be sure it is not presented as a criticism of the current process, but rather as a suggestion for an improvement.”

Don’t be disappointed if your suggestion is rejected. “Be ready to hear that there may be reasons that the work task cannot be changed,” Peach says. “Take this from your manager with grace and respect and keep maintaining your relationship with him/her as a primary goal.”

If your idea is accepted, be sure to keep track of how much money and/or time it saved your employer — that’s definitely an accomplishment worth listing on your resume.

Documenting the skills

you develop as the summer progresses will make it easier to update your resume for future job prospects.

Check out York University’s online “CyberGuide” for useful tips on summarizing your key accomplishments. “Often students aren’t that clear about their skills,” Peach says. “Feedback from a supervisor can point out new ways of looking at your skills and potential areas for improvement.

“This can help you find things to write about on your resume and their comments can even be used as quotes on your resume or cover letter, or you can discuss them in the interview.”

Finally, recognize the potential value of relationships you’re developing. “This could be the beginning of a network,” Paisley says. “You never know who the person you’re working with, for example, happens to know. You may meet an ally or build a reference.”

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