By Sarah Nathanson

As most of you will have guessed, I, Sarah Nathanson, am in that weird generation that nobody can classify. Born in 1997, I’m twenty years old, and I had my first job in 2016 when I was still living in South Africa. I’m sure most of us millennials (or whatever our generation is) at U of T Arts and Science are worried about getting a job after graduation. Will our English/Classical Studies/Equity Studies degrees lead anywhere? Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could read my own future, I’m as clueless — and nervous — as anybody.

 
Blonde woman in a onesie drinking a sangria out of a straw saying "I don't even have a 'pla'". (From the TV series friends.)

But let’s try not to scare ourselves by thinking too far ahead. Right now, it’s summer. The sun is shining, four glorious, slightly less busy months are stretching out in front of us — either you’re school-free or, like me, you’re taking summer classes — and the city is ours for the taking! For a lot of people, that means getting a summer job, and if you want one, this is where you’ll find tips to begin (and hopefully end) your search. A summer job will keep you busy while you’re not studying (which is something I need to not go crazy with boredom), you’ll get a chance to earn some money (a great idea in this economy) and, as I like to think, you get a chance to build your resumé. So the future looks bright, as your parents always assured you it would. Those, anyway, are my reasons — if you need or want a summer job, tell yourself whatever it takes to get motivated. Also, channel the confidence of Derek Sheppard from season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy. That’s step zero!

Quick disclaimer, though: I am, clearly, in no way an expert: I’ve had five jobs in my life, and I’ve been really lucky. It can be hard out there, and, believe me: I’ve had more rejections to applications than I can count. Keep your chin up and believe in yourself.

Highschoolers dancing in a high school gym (Movie High School Musical)

Step One: The Resumé Hand Jive

Build yourself a killer resumé. I’m not going to tell you exactly how to do that here, because I don’t want to turn this post into a novel. I’ll write a separate post about putting together a resumé later, but here are some great tips to start with, as well as a link to U of T Student Success Services, which have amazing resumé-writing classes.

Step Two: The Handout Jitterbug

Have a copy of that resumé with you at all times. I don’t care if it’s 3:00 AM and you’re stumbling into your third club or if it’s 3:00 PM and you’re going to class, but have it with you in case you hear someone say, “Oh, my goodness, it’s such a shame I don’t have an undergrad English major editing my letters to Gran-Gran every week!” OK, that’s an exaggeration, but especially in the summer, lots of stores have help-wanted signs in their windows. Be ready to hand over your documented skills! And have a smile and a firm handshake ready as well. They make a difference.

The Jitterbug, Part Two

Scour the internet for potential summer internships or contract work. Sites like Indeed and Magnet are really useful in sending your resumé out into the world. The jobs you’ll find there are usually with big companies who need students to do their grunt work — but this could give you an in into your desired professional field. For example, I have never wanted to go into advertising or presentation creation, but I took an internship with a company that specialized in those things straight out of high school. Having that experience on my resumé gives me credibility because I worked in an office and gained specialized skills (like how to construct a convincing and captivating presentation) and general skills (like event planning). Both are desirable to employers, and might make the difference between getting an interview and never hearing back.

The U of T Career Learning Network (CLN) also has a large range of work-study jobs, which is how I found this position (you guys! I’m writing for a living! It’s a dream come true!) — but for CLN, you do have to be in summer school. Cast your net as widely as you can, but remember to personalize especially your cover letter for each job — it’s polite, it shows you’re paying attention and it’ll make you stand out in a good way. You can also go a step further by making yourself known as a potential employee in your favourite coffee shop (or wherever you hang out often) or finding out who in your life has an amazing job and how they got it.

Man holding a brown briefcase and a business newspaper, leaning against a wall with a shelf with a plant behind him.

Step Three: The Interview Waltz

Now, friends, your resumé wielding has paid off. You’re fielding interviews left, right and centre, and you’re about to get the (internship, student) job of your dreams. First, though, you have to kill the interview. Wear semi-formal, professional clothes that make you confident in yourself (think Jessica from Suits), and be ready to greet your interviewer with that smile and a sturdy handshake I already mentioned earlier. Remember, they wouldn’t have invited you if your experience wasn’t interesting to them. You’re supposed to be there, so square your shoulders and answer the questions with as much professional gusto as you can. But don’t veer into arrogance. Make sure you know everything you can about the position, and be able to ask questions about what it might entail. Also know your weaknesses, though, and ask yourself how you could spin (or reimagine!) them into ways you’re making yourself improve.

Woman sitting at desk saying "I never said ambition was a bad thing". (from TV series Suits)

Step Four: The Post-Interview Shimmy

This is a part of the process that I learned fairly recently, but one that’s super useful in making yourself stand out. As soon as you get back home on interview day, slide onto Gmail and thank your interviewers for the opportunity. Here are the points you want to hit:

  • thank you for the opportunity (obviously)
  • I appreciate your interest in me
  • I look forward to hearing from you.

Woman saying (and drawing in the air) "Smiley face, winky face, heart, heart, prayer hands". (From TV series Grace and Frankie.)

It doesn’t have to be long, friends! But a little bit of politeness goes a long way. Grace from Grace and Frankie says that you should pre-write this as a letter and drop it in the company mailbox on your way out. You can do that! But I think an email probably works just as well.

Good luck, people! Keep your chin up! You are smart, accomplished and capable, and a summer job is just around the corner for you. I can feel it in my bones.

Until next time,

Your favourite Clumsy Adult,

Sarah