By Jon Waldman
Recently, LinkedIn encouraged its authors to write a message to 22-year-olds – spry and ready to enter the job market.
It was an interesting theme that tied so well to what we all want for the next generation – to be as prepared as possible when they enter a job market that is competitively saturated.
The message is simple: what you do outside the classroom is as important as what you gain inside the classroom, if not more so, and this includes the text you’d use to fill everyone’s favourite essay on “What I did last summer.”
For hundreds of college students, summer is the time when you get out and get a job to do two things:
1. Bring in some cash to pay for the next semester, and
2. Have something to fill the day.
The unfortunate part of summer employment is that most students don’t take advantage of the career opportunities that present themselves and instead will take anything available, especially if it involves being outdoors (where some jobs won’t function unless conditions are just right. Trust me. These do exist.).
Sure, you’ll have your money and your time-biding job where maybe you’ll make a couple new friends, but come graduation, will you have anything to show for your summer job other than a couple stories to share over drinks? Not really.
Thus, it’s important to ensure that you’re making the most out of your opportunity and getting that all-important experience that’s in line with your career path. Heading to business school? Why not intern with an entrepreneur. Looking to enter veterinary school in a couple years? Pet stores or dog walking services will give you some of the experience you crave. Looking toward medicine? Consider working the canteen at a blood donor clinic or giving CPR lessons.
I’ll use myself as an example in this case.
Way back before I entered Ryerson University for my journalism degree, I was a young buck who was preparing for my third summer of work. My first two were admittedly not career-related – the first was working as a groundskeeper, the next doing stock in a local school.
It was in year three – the all-important transition in between my first and second degrees – where I really put my prospective skills to use.
Answering an ad for the Credit Union Central of Manitoba, I was given a three-month contract as a content developer in its web division. Now this was back in 2000, so you can imagine how different this was compared to today.
Leaving aside the writing, which was my primary focus, applying my skills to real-world opportunities of industry content generation put me ahead of the curve and opened my eyes to the world of corporate communications.
Sure, I was still a starry-eyed idealist who thought that, for certain, I would be the next big columnist for The Hockey News (and yes, I did end up writing for them for a few years), but I also had the opportunity to test the waters of a new extension of where my degree might take me. Not to mention I gained some invaluable experience in content production for the web (something I now do every day for Hep Communications).
So, as you can see, there are tried-and-true benefits to tactfully exploring for a summer job. Be sure to keep this in mind as the warmer weeks progress and plan ahead for the months to come – you never know how seasonal employment will benefit your future.
Jon Waldman is a marketing strategist at Hep Communications.