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Finding the Good in Your Summer Job

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Let’s face it, the job outlook for teens and college students wasn’t pretty for summer 2010. The unemployment rate for teens reached a record 26%, leaving many students taking whatever position they could get to make money.

Now that summer is coming to a close, you may be wondering how you will translate your less than desirable experiences on a resume or at an interview in a way that will impress employers.

We have five tips for finding the good in your summer job:

1. Stay positive.  It may not have been desirable standing behind a fryer or babysitting a family of five all summer, but employers know that summer 2010 was a rough go for the job market. They will care less about what your position was, and more about what you made of it.  A positive attitude and strong work ethic is always transferable.  

2. List your accomplishments on your resume, not your job description. The most important element of resume writing is focusing on your specific accomplishments. This is the area where a vast majority of candidates falter. Most job seekers write job description resumes. They simply tell the reader what anyone in that particular position would do, as opposed to what they specifically accomplished. For example, if you were a waitress at Applebee’s, don't list that you served clients food and took orders. The fact is, any waitress in the history of the world did that. If what is written on your resume can be written by the person who did the job, before, with, or after you, then you haven’t done yourself justice. Resumes need to be infused with numbers, data, records, and accomplishments. These quantifiable and measurable details will improve your resume dramatically.

3. Focus on the transferables. If you were looking for an engineering internship but ended up mowing lawns all summer, focus on the non-technical skills that are needed for both positions. Be prepared to talk about your strong work ethic, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and stellar customer service.

4. Think about what you did outside of work. Did you take an online class while working through a temp agency this summer? Did you spend any time coaching a little league team or volunteering at the animal shelter?  These are all important experiences to highlight.

5. Highlight how you went above and beyond. Working on a manufacturing line may not be the accounting internship you were hoping for, but did you do anything to go above and beyond? If you worked extra hours or received recognition for a job well done, be sure to emphasize it on your resume and in your interview.

Hopefully, these tips will help you articulate your experiences with success. Remember that you aren't the only one who had to spend a summer doing work that wasn't so glamorous or in line with your career objectives. Actor Brad Pitt dressed as a giant chicken to promote an el Pollo Loco restaurant, NFL running back Edgerrin James worked 16-hour days loading watermelons into a truck, and business tycoon Warren Buffett bagged groceries. And look where they are now!

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