Turn Your Summer Job into a Career Path

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Even if it only lasts a couple of months, you can reap benefits from your summer job for years to come — if you play your cards right.


What are those benefits?


1. If the job is in the industry you'd like to pursue, you'll gain valuable knowledge and experience.


2. You'll add contacts to your professional network. Even if those people aren't working in your desired field, one of them — or someone they know — might connect you to your dream job someday.


3. If you make a great impression with your employer at the temporary job, you might be offered a full-time position there.


How can you make that great impression?


Whether you end up working full-time there or not, being seen as a valuable employee will pay off for you in the long run. Here's how to get favorable attention:


1. Take the job seriously. Dress the part, don't show up late/cut out early, seek out opportunities to learn new skills.


2. Ask questions about the work and the company — show that you're enthusiastic about being part of their team. Also, ask co-workers why they chose their career and how they got their start with the company.


3. Say yes to whatever task is asked of you. Go one step further and volunteer your assistance with other team projects.


4. Invite feedback and be open to learning from it. Find out if there's a formal schedule for performance reviews, and if not, request a review meeting with your supervisor.


As you can see, you'll not only make a great impression, you'll also take away a ton of priceless knowledge.


What else can you take away from a summer job?


On-the-job training is hugely important, of course. But that's not the only thing hiring managers look for; sometimes it's not even the most important thing.


1. Life skills that are necessary to any job. These include teamwork, communication skills, time management, organizational skills, observation/analysis and innovative thinking. Even basic information technology knowledge — the ability to use common programs — is now considered an essential life skill is just about every line of work.


2. People connections. Stay in touch with co-workers and supervisors after you leave, and you'll have the beginnings of a professional network that you can always tap into for information or job opportunities. Start with a follow-up email after you leave thanking them for the experience.


3. New insight into your career goals. If the summer job is in your chosen industry, take note of what you like and don't like about it — and whether you still want to stay on that path. Even if it's just a random job that you don't see as part of your future, it can give you a better idea of what corporate cultures fit (or don't fit) your personality.


Should you come right out and ask for a full-time job?


Absolutely! The company may be impressed with you but have no idea that you'd take a permanent position — so let them know.


If you like the company but your department can't hire you, consider job openings in other departments (you may be able to transfer back later). Ask a co-worker or supervisor to put in a word for you — recommendations from staff usually get top priority with the hiring manager.


Don't give up if they say there's nothing currently available. Remember, you now have some of these people in your network. When you check in with them in the months and years ahead, keep them informed of what you're doing and let them know you're still interested in working there.


A summer job is what you make of it. It can be a way to pass the time and earn a few bucks until school starts again. Or it can be a fantastic opportunity for growth and the beginning of a rewarding career path. It's all up to you!


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