Does your college student have a summer job?
Mine does, but it wasn’t easy. With 40M+ Americans out of work, the competition for summer work – or any work at all – hasn’t been this fierce since the Great Depression. So there is zero shame in not getting a summer job, or having one fall through.
That said, there are some things that Pippa did right, and I wanted to share them here, in case they are helpful to others.
I know this isn’t much help now, but unless Jesus returns this winter, there will be more summers to come.
Pippa started thinking about summer employment over her Christmas break, and actually started pursuing things in February. That’s pretty good for a college student.
An early start means more options, and a leg up on competitors (other college students and teenagers). It’s not about outrunning the bear – it’s about outrunning your fellow campers. If this reverse metaphor confuses you, just remember: Devoured by Bear = No Summer Job.
Pursue Many Jobs
Young people sometimes have trouble with this concept. There is only one summer job they really want. And applying to multiple jobs seems like wasted effort.
But again, it’s about options. If the student receives multiple job offers, that’s a good ‘problem’ to have.
By the end of April, Pippa had already applied for three summer positions.
Utilize School Resources
Now more than ever, colleges are being asked to justify their value. Are state schools really worth $30k a year? Are private colleges worth $70k a year??
To prove they are a good investment, colleges are increasingly investing in their career centers. They are lining up internships, connecting students with alumni, and scheduling regular resume workshops. Attend these sessions. Schedule a one-on-one with a counselor. Put in the work.
Another school resource is actual summer jobs. Colleges host lots of positions, from professor research to work study jobs. And these jobs are reserved for students, so they are much less competitive to land.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
Pippa applied for a summer research position. Before spring break in March, she interviewed with the professor, then sent a follow up note reiterating her fitness for the position, and thanking her for the opportunity.
During spring break, the virus pandemic accelerated, and students were told to not return to campus. Every once in a while, the professor would send an email to her applicants on where things stood – mostly “wait and see” updates.
“Should I reply to these?” asked Pippa.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Most students probably won’t, and it sends a strong signal that you are still interested.”
Before long, Pippa received a personal email from the prof: “You are one of two finalists…but I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to conduct research this summer.” A good news/bad news update that I wish she had never received. When you get close to winning a job, it’s natural to ease up, but this was no time to take her foot off the accelerator.
Note: This research was eventually cancelled due to the pandemic.
It’s a cliche to say that everyone gets jobs through their network, but many do in fact exploit key relationships. There’s a reason why the partying playboy stumbles his way through classes and summers at the beach, then immediately trades his graduation gown for a pinstripe suit. He knows people who know people.
Pippa also applied to her college’s Fellowship Program, which pays students $12/hr for 7 weeks to work unpaid internships that they find. It’s a great skills development program, but it puts the onus on the student to find a meaningful internship, then submit an application that justifies the college’s funding of it.
Pippa was casting about for ideas when Nora planted a seed: reach out to Nora’s old friend for a possible mathematics internship. As a planned math major, Pippa loved the idea, and the easy in definitely helped.
Pippa’s application was accepted (woohoo!) and she’s already started her virtual internship in her very comfortable home office (errr, chair):
Don’t Be Super Picky
You know what’s worse than not getting that cool paid summer internship with Snapchat in California? Sitting at home sending cute filtered snaps of yourself all summer long, while you study the motion of the sweeping second hand on the family room wall clock. Or worse: watch one Youtube video after another, until you are as rude and disillusioned as the anonymous commenters.
A boring and/or exhausting job is so much better than none at all. There’s the cash of course, but also the accumulation of experience…and grit.
Pippa’s college friend nabbed a job at McDonald’s this summer, and kudos to her for the hustle. Working there is almost a rite of passage – 1 in 8 U.S. workers has been employed by McDonald’s – and she will no doubt learn a lot about herself by August.
Pippa is also hopeful she can get an answer to a question that’s been nagging her: Why is the McDonald’s soft serve ice cream machine always broken down?