Welcome to the new term. Today is day 2 at Warwick. It won’t be long before the long holidays seem a distant memory as you grapple with academic work. Some of you will also be making job applications. Here are some thoughts on how to really impress your chosen employers. Identify and promote the skills you developed over the summer and the dream job will be one step closer.
It’s a good idea to spare a bit of time now reflecting on what you did over the summer. If you leave it too long you will forget the details! If you’re at Warwick have a look at the Tell your story webpages. Other universities will have similar programs.
Did you have an internship?
Great, you’re obviously going to put this on your application forms. There are some traps to avoid:
1. Don’t just list what you did.
“Observed”, “shadowed”, “sat in on…”, “accompanied”, “was exposed to…” are not words which convey an active learning experience! By all means tell employers (briefly) what you watched, but make sure you talk about your proactive networking and the development of skills like communication, analysis and team working.
2. Avoid the temptation to overplay the experience.
Don’t make it sound as if you ran an multi-million pound organisation single handed for a few weeks. This won’t be credible and will cast doubt on everything else you say in the rest of your application. If you’re applying for a job where integrity is of the utmost importance, it might even mean the end of your hopes of appointment.
Did you work in a shop or a bar?
Don’t feel that this is not going to be valued by employers. It will be. You can demonstrate that all important strong work ethic and also a handful of other skills. You’re likely to have been an active member of a team, communicating effectively with customers. You might have had to demonstrate resilience in working long hours and in negotiating effectively to resolve disputes. Perhaps you marketed successful? Did you persuade customers to buy an extra bottle of wine, or two garments rather than one? Did you look at the way the business was being run and think of ways to improve things? Was there an opportunity to share your thinking with management? Maybe your suggestions lead to changes? Employers are always really impressed with those able to analyse the business in which they find themselves and improve it. These are just the people destined to become CEOs or senior partners.
Perhaps you went travelling?
Travelling usually tests your powers of organisation. You probably had to decide where and when to go, how much to spend, how long to stay and who to go with. You might have needed resilience, ability to re-plan quickly in the light of changing circumstances and good communication skills – vital when you need to make yourself understood and don’t speak the local language! If you went with a group of people there might have been times when you had to negotiate what to do next, or referee disputes between friends. There’s a lot here you can “sell” successfully to employers.
What if you stayed at home and didn’t work?
Don’t despair of finding something constructive to say about your summer. You will have done some useful things. Did you spend any time caring for younger, older or infirm relations? This will have allowed you to develop your resilience, your communication and negotiating skills. What about charity work? Did you do some volunteering? Employers love this, it is another way to demonstrate your work ethic and to learn the same skills you pick up when you are in paid work. You might have done some odd jobs for family and friends, This could have involved some team working or proactive analysis of how to do something.
I hope that you will all have found something here which resonated with your summer holiday activity. You should never lie (or embellish the truth) on applications, but it is really important to look at what you have done and think what skills you got from it.
If this post has also encouraged you to reflect on your experiences, great! Can you identify any gaps in experience which you can plug? The Volunteering Fair and Society’s Fair are coming up here in Warwick. Why not go along and see if you can find the perfect additional activity which you will enjoy while boosting your CV?