Tag Archives | summer job

Five Most Important Things You Should Do as an Intern

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Brace yourselves, because the internships are coming! We all know it’s a jungle out there and most of you are confused about what to do when preparing for your first intern position. But, as always, we are here to help with that.

This article will take you by the hand to show you the most important things you should have in mind when undergoing an internship.

Before we present the most popular internship tips from top companies, let’s take a little respite and talk about why someone would want to apply for such a position in the first place.

One of the essential reasons why many people choose to apply for an internship at a company is because they have no idea where they stand career-wise. It would be an understatement to say that choosing your career is a harsh and nerve-consuming process. This is why it is imperative to know what to look for and what industries or departments are best suited for your particular skillset.

Let’s say you’re dying to work at Ikea, but you’re not quite sure what position you might be suited for. This is where an internship comes in. If you’ve researched all the best options to get your foot in the door and discovered that you’re not yet qualified for any of their job openings, you can try your luck with an internship position and get better insight on the exact area where you might contribute.

Performing a three-month internship helps you discover a company’s internal structure, find out what each department does and gives you a better perspective on the type of position you might be suited for in the long run.

Furthermore, this type of experience will look great on your resume and could give you a major career boost when trying to secure a full-time job.

Now, without further ado, here are the five best tips suited for interns.

1. Make it a learning experience

Before starting out on your first day as an intern, make sure to find out everything there is to know about the company’s profile and activity. Search for all available information regarding their values and objectives, their products or services, the organizational culture and the methods they use to promote themselves.

Regardless of the department where you will be interning, this will help you make a positive impression on your supervisor and also help you come up with an accurate approach for the tasks that you will be performing.

Make sure to constantly ask questions and keep learning throughout your entire internship, as this will serve you greatly not only in your activity as an intern, but also later on, when you will be securing a full-time position.

2. Organize your tasks

As a newbie, you’ll probably have a rough time adjusting to your position’s requirements. Every so often, many employers have come to realize that interns quit after a brief period of time because they feel like their workload is overwhelming.

Probably the most sound advice anyone can give you is to learn how to prioritize your tasks. Prioritization doesn’t mean that you will leave something for later and eventually forget the whole deal. Use the spare time you have to review your tasks.

It would also be a good idea to keep a planner nearby. If you’re not the pen and paper type, then you can use a mobile tool. Start with the urgent tasks or with the hard ones, leaving the easy ones for later.

On the subject of planning ahead, you should also ask your supervisor about the deadlines of each project. For example, if a simple project has a distant deadline, you can leave it aside for now and focus on other projects.

Bear in mind that the ability to prioritize is one of the things your employer uses for your evaluation. Acing this one will definitely increase your chances of staying in the company.

Also, keep in mind that your employer wants to see how you work under stress. There are things you could try to relieve some of the pressure felt at work.

3. Dress for success

Bear in mind that the company has a code for everything, including for how you dress. So, if you decide to show up for work wearing flip-flops or a heavy cleavage, you’ll probably transmit a signal that you’re not serious about the commitment.

Research the company’s policy in this regard, but also look around the office to see how people are dressing for the job. If it’s the type of company where everyone is wearing T-shirts and jeans, then you’re probably not going to want to show up for work in a corporate suit and a red necktie. Make an effort to blend in with the rest of the crowd, without necessarily losing your personal style.

4. Ask for a clear list of responsibilities

Most of the time interns are there to help full-time employees. It’s probably a bad idea to dream about ample projects or responsibilities. Bear in mind that as an intern you will probably have to perform menial tasks like photocopying documents, fetching files and even making coffee for the CEO.

Whatever your tasks may be, just be sure to have a clear idea on what is required of you and leave very little room for doubts or vagueness in this regard. If you are unsure about a specific instruction, ask your direct supervisor for further clarification. He/she might be busy with more pressing issues, but at the end of the day, they will look favorably upon your discipline and your sense of responsibility.

5. Ask for feedback

From time to time, ask your employer for feedback. Ask him/her about where you stand, how you fared so far and if there is any room for improvement. Expect some constructive criticism from him or her.

Don’t be discouraged if your employer said that your performance was poor. Instead, look for intelligent ways to improve your work. You might try asking you co-workers for help if you can’t find a satisfactory solution by yourself.

Keep in mind that they also have work to do, so, it will probably be a good idea not to assault them with too many questions.

One last thing: keep in mind that each feedback can impact us in different ways. There are many studies out there who proved that there is indeed a link between intern feedback and overall productivity.

For someone who has just stepped out of university and has no real work experience, an internship can be a challenging and rather daunting notion. The learning process may not be easy – it might even be a competitive environment – but as long as you follow the five tips outlined in this article, you will stand a very good chance of landing a favorable review or – fingers crossed – an offer to join the company full-time.

This article was contributed by guest author Amanda Wilks.

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The Real Truth about Getting a Summer Research Position

Image by Sharon Drummond, Flickr

Image by Sharon Drummond, Flickr

As the semester draws to a close and exam season becomes less about preparation and more about survival, there is one question on the mind of every post-secondary student… how am I going to get summer research experience? At first the task may seem daunting. The main problem that most undergraduates face is that they don’t know where to start. There seems to be an endless stream of options from university job boards to department postings. There are even specialized internship programs that exist at other institutions (ex. local hospitals). However, once you scale the initial hurdle and start applying, what you will quickly realize is that even though applications keep going out, your inbox remains conspicuously empty. Is everyone just better qualified than you or is there a larger game afoot? What does it really take to get the coveted position that a million students wanted?

It’s all about connections.

Seriously, what looks like selection by merit is often just a diversion and the job will really be awarded to the individual who won the “who you know” game. A respectable GPA may get you noticed but at the end of the day a number will only get you so far; your relationships are what will really carry weight in a competitive application process. Therefore, the solution is simple but by no means easy.

Step 1: Decide what your area of interest is early in the academic year and then find professors or graduate students who are doing research on that subject.

Step 2: Find a way to make contact – and by that I mean face to face. Try taking their class or at least finding out when their office hours are and becoming a regular. Come prepared with intelligent and insightful questions, but always remember they are the experts so don’t try to show them up.

Step 3: When you feel comfortable, broach the topic of working for them over the summer. If necessary this can be done via email but be prepared to argue your case and convince them you would be an asset to their work.

Don’t expect to get paid.

Not only are most researchers strapped for cash but many are also very sensitive when it comes to money. If they think you aren’t there for the purely intellectual pursuit of furthering your own knowledge this could act as a strike against you. However, what you want is to get your foot in the door and volunteering is a great way to make this happen. People are not usually going to turn down extra help they don’t have to pay. If you can find some way to ensure your funding, for example through a government grant, that is even better.

It’s not just for science students.

When most people hear the word research they automatically think of scientists in lab coats creating various concoctions from bubbling beakers. Admittedly for anyone engaged in serious scientific study research experience, even if it involves just cleaning that glassware, is a must. Nevertheless, to be competitive in the humanities and social sciences, especially if you have your sights set on graduate school, research experience is also becoming very valuable. Though it may involve less time in the lab and more in the library there are skills to be learned in these fields as well that cannot be effectively taught in the classroom.

Don’t wait until an opening is posted.

Once a position makes it to the job board it becomes common knowledge – and that means that your chances of getting it are drastically reduced. Not only does everyone at your school in a relevant field now have a chance to apply, but if there are no restrictions, students from other schools will be interested as well. This is especially true if your school is in a densely populated metropolitan centre. Therefore, unless you are feeling incredibly lucky you need to utilize your connections to lock down the job you want before it goes public.

Don’t be afraid to explore options outside your major.

The subject you have chosen to study may be incredibly general or exceptionally specific. However, whatever your discipline it is probably interrelated with a dozen others that may also touch upon your interests. Therefore, it is paramount that you don’t limit yourself to doing research that is specific to your major. Venture outside of your comfort zone a little and the opportunities will only increase. The same way immunologists may gain worthwhile experience in a biochemistry lab, international relations students should not rule out research in political science.

By the time you’re reading this it may already be too late.

As someone who has been through this process (successfully I might add), I have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. The reality that you need to be contacting supervisors about potential summer research opportunities before leaving for Christmas break (January at the latest) was one of them. Whether you have strong connections or not, the best way to ensure that you will be assisting with research this summer is to be the first applicant. Professors are just like the rest of us and are often ready to settle for a sure thing rather than wait to see if something better comes along. If your email is one of the first read, your chances of getting hired just increased exponentially. If your inquiry comes trickling in at the end of second semester it is likely to not even be read.

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5 Tips for Finding a Summer Job

Image by Flazingo Photos, Flickr

Image by Flazingo Photos, Flickr

It’s that time of year again — if you’ve ever looked for a summer job before, you know what we’re talking about. Some start searching as early as October of the year before, and others start after the school year ends. Preference aside, winter and early spring are actually optimal times to start the hunt. Here are some tips that will hopefully steer you in the right direction for your summer job search:

  • Decide what you want to do
    This may seem obvious, but you will be much happier if you work at a job you love doing. Not everyone is able to get a summer position in their chosen field, but focusing on a certain kind of job will help narrow your search. Do you want practical experience to supplement your studies? Is money your top priority? Are you interested more in an internship or a job?

    If you can help it, make sure the job you are looking for suits your personality. Do you get restless sitting at a desk all day? If so, you might consider a job outdoors. Want to hone your writing skills? Try looking up internships for magazines, newspapers, or publishing companies. If you shape your search around your interests, it is likely you will be happy at your summer job.
     

  • Look outside your comfort zone
    The previous point being said, you never know what hidden passion may lie in you for, say, teaching, if you don’t get to experience it firsthand. Obviously, if you know you hate something, don’t try working in that field. But if you’ve always had a passing interest in human biology or wanted to learn more about computers, take the opportunity to look for summer jobs in these fields that do not require much experience.
     
  • Take advantage of your school’s resources
    Now that you’ve decided what kind of job you want, be sure to use all that your school offers you. Inquire at your department’s office about upcoming job fairs. Look into your school’s online hubs for job postings. An example of this is the University of Toronto’s Career Learning Network, where updates are posted frequently regarding events like resume workshops. Jobs are posted for positions both within and outside the school. Many students overlook what their school can offer them, so be sure to take proper advantage of what part of your tuition pays for.
     
  • Search online centres and company websites for job postings
    Websites like TalentEgg can be very useful when looking for summer jobs. Employers post their guidelines and requirements for the positions they are looking to fill, and you are free to apply to any of them online. If you have a specific company in mind, they almost always have a “Careers” or “Internships” section in which you may find postings for summer positions. Nothing online? Pick up the phone and ask if they’re hiring – it can’t hurt.
     
  • Use your own personal connections
    Again, this may seem obvious, but try asking around for summer work. One of your professors may need some extra help. Your parents’ friend may need a tutor for their child. There might be something for you right under your nose. If you think you will get something out of the experience of assisting your professor or tutoring your family friend’s kid, then go for it. You may even discover you want to continue working in a lab or teaching math.
     

There are of course a large number of ways one can find work, but this should be a good starting point for you. Have any personal experiences you want to share? Start the conversation on Facebook.

The Internship Diaries #4 – Perfect Landing

Image by Alper Çuğun, Flickr

Image by Alper Çuğun, Flickr

Well, as you might have noticed, summer has come to an end and school is back in session. Time for the craziness to begin again. In fact, I’ve already been so busy that I haven’t had time to write this post until now.

Now that I’ve been away from it for a week or so, I can say that I genuinely miss my internship. Office life, yes, the work, yes, but mostly the people. I was heartbroken that I would have to say goodbye to these people who, without knowing it, made the second most difficult summer of my life bearable. At the beginning of summer, I had just received some bad news, and I felt like I had to start my entire life over again. Now, somehow I’m a completely new person, with new interests and skills and friends and confidence, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credit for that to the place where I spent the majority of my time.

It was so gratifying to see the projects that I’d been working on for so long completed – I got to see a PDF of the designed version of the manuscript I’d been working on, and apart from one glaring misstep on the part of the graphic designer, it looked amazing. I can’t wait to get a copy to show off. Both of the videos that I filmed were released, and you can watch the one that I starred in, about bullying, social anxiety, and depression, here. It was decided that I would contribute to the blog I edited myself, as a writer this time.

I started out wobbly – like I was pushed off a cliff and I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive or not. But not only did I make it to the ground safely, it was a perfect landing. During my last week at the office, I was offered a part-time position with the organization, doing what I had already been doing but mainly from home, and for money. Of course, it doesn’t pay well, and the details are still hazy, but I was blown away.

I guess if I had to pick one thing that I hope readers take away from this series, it would be this – believe in yourself. Like really believe in yourself; even if you think that you’re the exception to every rule out there, and people just don’t get you, and your life just sucks. Believe in yourself. I was never the girl who got the guy, or anything else she wanted for that matter, and over time I’ve learned to expect failure or mediocrity at best. I’ve gotten better at encouraging myself to try things anyway, and do what makes me happy, but I don’t expect these things to be successful. Expecting success seemed arrogant and ridiculous. But maybe it’s not. Understand that there’s always the possibility of failure for everyone, and that no matter what there will always be challenges, but ultimately, expect success. It just might happen. That’s what I’ve learned.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my little journey, and I encourage you to follow me on twitter @chelsearrr, where I post far more frequently than I should!

The Work-Study

Image by Corey Seeman, Flickr

Image by Corey Seeman, Flickr

Academia doesn’t grind to a halt during summer vacation. A work-study is named for its status as both a job and opportunity for students to continue studying. The “working” aspect of a work-study means the student will be paid for their efforts. The “studying” aspects means the student will be paid for their involvement in some aspect of academia; this could be anything out of a range of duties; such as research, writing, editing, and compiling and organizing bibliographies.

I was lucky enough to be employed in a work-study this year at the University of Toronto. During my annual summer job hunt I checked the U of T work-study database. There weren’t any work-studies with the history department (I am a history specialist), but a work-study with the Statistical Sciences Department required graphic design and writing experience, which I had. After an interview on campus, I got the job. This particular work-study was part-time, so I was able to work and still attend summer school.

I worked with a professor in the Department of Statistical Sciences for a little over a month, and learned a great deal about statistical sciences by doing research for her. I also slogged through bibliographies and made graphs, but got the opportunity to learn about a field I otherwise would never have breached.

A summer work-study is convenient for students looking for a job who live near campus, or for those who live far away to find student housing on campus. In addition, if your employment works out, having a professor as your boss makes for an excellent reference for either graduate school or future employment.

Drawing from my experience, do not be afraid to apply for work-studies outside your specialization. Work-studies also exist during the school year, and are a good opportunity to financially benefit from your extra-curriculars. Ask your registrar about work-study opportunities. If you are passionate about a particular subject, ask a professor in that field if they know of any work-study opportunities. Having studied all year, it’s nice to make money doing so.

A Lesson In Office Politics

Image by Phil Whitehouse, Flickr

Image by Phil Whitehouse, Flickr

Office politics are unavoidable. Where there are people, there will be conflict. Optimistic, inexperienced young people entering the workforce can be vulnerable to workplace tensions. Many working students simply want to prove themselves and work hard. That may not be enough to succeed at work. If students do not heed their workplace’s political landscape, they can unintentionally offend co-workers in their endeavor to impress their superiors, risking conflict and possibly their reference and/or paycheque.

Temporary summer employment presents a special case of office politics. Perhaps vying for employment the next summer, or after graduation, or in trying to show their work ethic to improve their reference, summer interns can irritate permanent staff by working at a different standard than expected.

I’ve heard several stories from friends and family about how, during summer employment, they were told by permanent staff members to work slower, or less efficiently, so as not to raise standards.

I recently learned my lesson in office politics during a summer job. I found a summer job with a real estate management agency as an office assistant. I signed a contract stipulating I would work downtown at their newly acquired property from May until August. The real estate company recently bought an old apartment building, and I was to help the existing resident manager revamp the building’s office.

An introductory meeting at the company’s head office provided welcoming words and a briefing about duties, when fellow summer student workers and I eagerly showed up for our first day. Head office was in an impressive marble and glass building. The meeting was held in a sunny corner conference room with friendly vice presidents to greet us, and several fruit plates. We (the summer students) were given individual portfolios containing information about the company, and contact information for the resident building managers we would be working with. According to my portfolio, my resident manager’s name was Valerie. The next week, on my first day of work, I arrived at Valerie’s building and buzzed her apartment from the directory. I wore a blazer, collared shirt, and dress pants. A grumpy woman, around fifty years old, emerged from a ground-floor apartment wearing cutoff sweats, a holey t-shirt, and a look of confusion. She opened the door halfway.

“Who are you?”

“Hi, I’m Helen. Are you Valerie, the building manager?”

“Yes.”

“I was sent by Realty Management Inc.” She stared, unresponsive. “I’m working here for the summer.” Further confusion. “I’m a summer student, they hired me to help with the office until August.” Still no response. “Is that the building’s office?” I pointed to a closed, unmarked door off the lobby.

Valerie turned, seeming to see the office door for the first time. “Er – yes.” She let me in the front door and led me to the office, withdrawing a bulging, rusty set of keys. While she jangled the ring looking for the right key, I pondered the power of a fruit plate, and how official it could make a meeting seem.

Despite the legitimate impression last week’s meeting gave, the certainty of the HQ administrators, and the neatly organized folders, Valerie had no idea I was arriving, or even that I was assigned to work in her building for four months.

The office door swung open, revealing a dark, dank room with dust coating every surface. Ah. The disused, cluttered office accounted for the miscommunication. It seemed that Valerie hadn’t been using the office, and instead had been conducting business out of her ground floor apartment. The phone, desk, and computer lay dusty and unused.

“So, you will work here all summer?” Valerie asked, lowering herself into the desk chair, stirring up dust.

“Yes, until August. I’m here for anything you need in the office. Filing, organizing, helping with the computer.” I sat down opposite the desk in a metal chair similar to those kept in church basements. She simply stared at me from across the desk, creating an silence far too awkward for such a small, dark room. I smiled, trying to ease the tension. “So, anything I can help with, just let me know.”

She continued staring, unmoved. “I don’t need any help.”

I don’t remember how I responded, but I know I could not conceal my overt shock at her blunt insensitivity. Within five minutes on my first day, I was plunged into workplace politics – the real estate company wanted me to help modify Valerie’s office, but Valerie didn’t want to change her managerial style (or lack thereof), and she certainly did not want a new style taught to her by a random student. Valerie likely thought that with the new company buying her building, I could have been sent to work with, learn from, and eventually replace her.

It seemed I had signed away my summer to work with someone who didn’t want my assistance and who disliked me on principle, even if my intention was only to work hard and do a good job. The former building owner had allowed a “hands-off” managerial style, while the new company wanted an involved, hands-on manager. Judging by the dusty state of the apartment building’s office, Valerie was dedicated to the former “hands-off” managerial style. Many times, when I pried too far into office logistics, or tried to improve efficiency, she would shut me down. Due to our disparate motivations, throughout the summer, the awkwardness between us never fully dissipated, and there were several incidents where she purposefully prevented me from doing my job, likely to retain her own job security. However, I never pushed back hard enough to spark conflict when she isolated me from administrative business. As a senior employee, she was more trusted and valuable.

If a conflict arose between us, as a temporary employee I was more disposable.

Fortunately, with some extreme patience and unrelenting cheerfulness, Valerie eventually warmed up to me. We parted with a hug.

During summer employment, students have to adapt to workplace politics quickly in order to succeed – to do a good job and exit with their deserved compensation without stepping on too many toes during their brief time working. As passers-through, their obligation is not to point out the faults of their co-workers, even if they are less than friendly. The goal of a summer student employee should be to depart with experience, a solid, good quality reference, or even just a full paycheque for their work. Thanks to Valerie’s rudeness, I learned my lesson: professional enthusiasm is best applied in combination with political awareness – check office politics to secure your paycheque.