“School’s out for summer.” Alice Cooper’s catchy lyrics have become your mantra as you toss your book bag into the closet. It won’t see the light of day for a couple of months while you do, with ambitions of consulting the pool, beach, and latest BuzzFeed quiz to address your disappearing problems.
...Until you check your bank account. Being lazy can be done on a budget, right? And then there’s the lingering thought that you try to bury with your book bag. All of these employers not only want you to have a college degree, but they want you to have experience. What does that even mean? “How can I get experience before getting a degree?”
Suddenly, summer has a new meaning.
Most internships take applications during the school year, some even during the fall term. So next year you’ll apply for those, but what about now? Fortunately, there are a variety of volunteer opportunities and odd jobs that you can pursue to build your resume during summer vacation. Though I did not work in my area of study, I worked at a summer camp and gained some great skills. However, I should have supplemented it with career-related experience.
Review job announcements published by attractive employers. What skills and experience are they requesting? Perhaps they’ll take a last-minute intern or volunteer now. Or, maybe you should spend the time hunting down an opportunity that will allow you to build the skills you can’t get by going to class like running a database, solving peoples’ problems through customer service, or learning the best ways to use half accessible office equipment. Speaking of the latter, when I graduated from college, I returned to the summer camp with a goal. I wanted to make an office accessible. Although I took a job unrelated to my career goals, the experience was especially fruitful since I learned to tell the copier who is boss and since I learned to quickly incorporate nonvisual techniques such as labeling files in braille and applying uniquely-shaped stickers to quickly identify forms.
Leverage who you know by contacting your friends who have internships or working adults. You might just land yourself an opportunity with your words. If you are nervous about how to bring up the conversation, try some of these strategies.
Go to networking events: They provide appropriate networking atmospheres. People at these events expect to learn about you and your ambitions. So it is very appropriate to be honest about your ambitions of getting a summer job and they will be ready to accept your resume and business card. You can also connect with people you meet on LinkedIn right away with their mobile app and send them a message after the networking event. Learn about networking events through career-related and location-specific LinkedIn and Facebook groups, MeetUp.com or through event postings in your department of study.
Talk to people you know: If you want to ask friends of your parents, try to catch them at a social event, or invite them out for coffee. Maybe your parents are inviting them over for dinner. Start with light conversation, and later transition. I find it helpful to be honest with people admitting exactly what I am looking for. This makes it very clear to the person what I am asking of them and often leads to honest answers which might be, “I don’t know of any opportunities right now.” However, at least you know that they cannot help you now and you can move on. Most professionals have been in your shoes. They remember the doldrums of graduating and having to find their first job. They will empathize with you and will assist if they can.
My opportunities have largely come to me through personal connections. How did I get hired at that summer camp I keep referencing? As a 16-year-old, my TVI suggested I apply to the camp she used to work at. She knew the director. I have also worked three jobs between my undergraduate and graduate education. I received the first when I attended a research study and told the graduate student about all of my research experience. The team happened to be searching for a research assistant. The second job supplemented the first during one summer, and I had volunteered with coworkers of the supervisor. I received the final job by applying, but it really started with my second interview with a nonprofit. Turning in a cold application helped me to get an interview, but my interview performance, although it was not sufficient to land me a job immediately, convinced my supervisor to invite me back.
Volunteering is also okay. Some people apply for hundreds of jobs and never get hired, but the task leads to success when conducted outside your house. Just as you talk to people, demonstrate that you are a hard worker by accepting a volunteer position even though you would rather be paid. Volunteering will build your resume and regularly put you in the vicinity with people with hiring power. I know numerous people who have received jobs after volunteering. As I mentioned before, I received job number two, because coworkers of my supervisor had seen me working hard at various volunteer events and could confirm that my enthusiasm during my interview was sincere.
Now that you have some tips to make your summer work for you, fold up your towel and get to work! Summer should be recast as a time to sharpen practical job skills to supplement your education. But don’t worry, summer will still be fun. Although you may work long hours at a job, you probably won’t be assigned homework or have a final exam to worry about, so you will still have time to contemplate why BuzzFeed determined that a zebra is your spirit animal.
is a first year Ph.D. student in the Human Centered Design and Engineering department at the University of Washington. Her research interests consist of incorporating accessibility early in the design of technology through accessible prototyping and through designer education. She takes every opportunity to consult student and industry projects about incorporating universal designs into new technologies.
Cindy is also one of Learning Ally's College Success Program
mentors and is available for mentoring sessions with current college students who are blind or visually impaired. To learn more, visit www.LearningAlly.org/collegesuccess