Don't waste the holidays: Top tips for nailing that student summer job

 

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The Independent Online

With the end in sight for most students (sorry medics!), many of us are facing up to four months of parental glares, painful hangovers and perpetual omnibuses of Come Dine With Me. If you’re hoping to break the monotony and earn some cash, then it’s time to start searching for a summer job.

Start looking now

Even if you aren’t available to start work until later in May or June, shops, restaurants and bars begin searching for seasonal staff as early as March. You may not have finished uni quite yet but distributing your CV (as long as it clearly notes your availability) before sixth form leavers can give you a massive advantage. Guy Townsin, careers manager at Portsmouth University says: “Advertised seasonal jobs will be few and far between, so use your networks to seek out unadvertised opportunities and use your university careers service to help tailor a CV for seasonal work.”

Take the jobs earch away from your computer

While many retailers like Waitrose, Sainsbury and Boots only consider online applications, plenty of shops, restaurants and bars recruit locally and encourage applicants to submit CVs. You also show yourself to be enthusiastic and personable by asking in person whether a business will be recruiting for summer. Service delivery director of Co-operative Food, Cheryl Marshall, says: “Pop into your local store to ask if they will be taking on any temporary summer staff. I would be impressed with students who can demonstrate that they love food as much as we do, are proud to be part of the community and are eager to deliver a consistently great shopping experience.”

Don’t forget about recruitment agencies

If littering your local town with CVs isn’t proving fruitful, then recruitment agencies can often help. Many local businesses rely on these companies to find them skilled seasonal staff and they may be able to find you a position tailored to your skills and availability. Katie Coates, a third-year environmental science student at the University of East Anglia, found a summer position as an NHS receptionist and clerk using a recruitment agency. She said: “I found it very useful the first time round and there were no problems and I had a job within two hours which was great. But last summer I had three or four hopefuls and didn't get them so it can be extremely hit and miss.”

De-clutter your CV

If you’re applying for a job in retail, make sure all your retail experience is on the first page and keep your CV succinct (two pages maximum). For example, there’s no need to list all your GCSEs, just say how many you achieved, what the range of your grades was and what relevant subjects this included (e.g. "11 GCSEs grades A*-B including Maths, English and IT"). Don’t forget to mention the kind of work you are looking for, the date you can start and what restrictions (if any) there are on your availability.

Guy Townsin suggests: “Stress the flexibility being a student gives you – you work on academic issues until late at night, you fit lectures, tutorials and often part time jobs around this. Adaptability, confidence and people skills are derived from this pattern of life. Make these skills obvious on your CV.”

Take time over online applications

It may seem cruel not to take your perfectly tailored CV and force you to enter all your details manually, but online application forms can be a great opportunity to sell yourself to employers – especially when answering open questions about your personal approach. Many allow you to save a draft and go back over what you’ve written, so take your time.

“To avoid a cliché-filled application, we would advise candidates to ask friends, family, colleagues or mentors to proofread your application,” says Carole Donaldson, John Lewis Partnership's resourcing strategy manager. “Candidates often fall down by repeating phrases from the role profile. Instead of talking about ‘working well as a team’, say what you did as part of that team and what you contributed to the final outcome. Remember to detail what aspects of the job you are most interested in and why, rather than just detailing your achievements,” she adds.

Don’t blow the interview

The role you’re applying for may not be your dream job but your prospective employer will expect you to be enthusiastic about the position and what you can bring to the company. Carole Donaldson advises: “Make sure you re-read your application form as interviewers may want to ask you about information you have given, whether this is more detail on work experience or more information on any questions you have answered.” Aim to be relaxed and natural but dress smartly as it’s always better to be overdressed to show that you’re taking the interview seriously.

Chester Ward, a third-year sports and exercise sciences student at the University of Chester, was interviewed by the branch manager and deputy manager for his position as a seasonal warehouse assistant at Poundland. He said: “They asked me a series of standard interview questions, such as 'What I would say my greatest achievement is?', and 'What do I think I could bring to the company?'” Chester was offered the job on the spot and believes that his confidence created a good impression: “I sat upright and didn't slouch in the chair. I didn't fidget too much, I tried to appear as natural as possible.”

Finding seasonal work isn’t always easy, but having something to show for the summer other than sunburn and muddy wellies will certainly be worth it!

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