There’s a myth that students are lazy; perhaps those who have rich parents are, but I can tell you, I worked my butt off when I was a student and I regularly employ students who put in some hard graft. My first student job was handing out leaflets promoting pub and club nights to other students. I moved on from that to organising events for students. I’ve turned both those jobs into thriving companies but back then – 16 years ago – I wasn’t looking to create a business empire, I needed to pay the rent, put food in the fridge, and pay for books, travel and tuition fees.
OK, I have to admit it was also a brilliant way to get access to cool club nights and gigs without paying for them – assuming the bouncers would let me in, as I was, for a while, underage!
Thinking back to my student days, and my student job, there’s definitely some advice I would have loved to have had back then. Since I’m not Doctor Who and I don’t have a TARDIS, I can’t share the benefits of my wisdom with my younger self; so the next best thing is to share it with today’s students.
Rule 1: A summer job shouldn’t just be about money – but money helps!
Yes, you need to earn money – but try and find a student job that’s going to be fun or where you’re going to learn something useful – ideally, both at once. If you enjoy a job, you’ll turn up on time, you’ll work harder, you’ll learn more and you might even get promoted and paid more.
Plus, you become more employable and it should be easier to get a holiday student job in the future.
Rule 2: Research the summer jobs market, identify cool opportunities and individually target them.
Do your research! Find out as much as you can about whoever you are approaching for work, including the name and email address of the person in charge of recruitment, and write a covering letter addressed to that person that explains clearly what skills and experience you have and how these are relevant to their needs (or the needs of their clients).
Yes, that’s extra work; and yes, you could just email a generic covering letter to thousands of possible employers with your CV as an attachment, all at once.
Unfortunately, it’s obvious that that’s what you’ve done – particularly if you just copy and paste all the email addresses into the email without bothering to BCC them (it’s happened more times than I can remember).
Rule 3: Be prepared to start at the bottom and be ready to work hard.
Unless your family owns the company, the chances are you’ll start at the bottom.
In most jobs, the people you’ll be working for know what they’re doing, so listen to them. They have the experience and the knowledge.
Also, make sure you pay attention to health and safety briefings – and if you aren’t given an H&S session, and you think you need one, ask!
Be prepared to do what you’re told to do and put in the graft. And, however boring you find the work, try and avoid the temptation to mess around – you don’t want to get sacked for doing something stupid and have to start looking for another job.
Rule 4: Think long-term – does this job help my CV?
When I’m looking to hire graduates, I’m looking at their CVs and I’m looking as much at what they did in them as at what they studied. While I love people who have travelled, I think it’s important to get some experience under your belt in the workforce.
Gap Years are great – but do you really need to travel and get pissed in Thailand for an entire year? Does that really look good on a CV? The truth is, if you’re sitting there in a room with another candidate who has also done a Gap Year, but you’ve got six months experience in the workforce during your three years at Uni, I’m probably going to hire you.
Rule 5: Expand your knowledge base, skills and contacts.
If you are the kind of student who is just looking to earn the money to pay for beer, cigarettes and a general good time, then skip this step. In fact, why have you bothered reading this far?
Still with me? Then you understand that what we do now has an impact on our future. Back when I was a teenage student handing out flyers for club nights, I was also making connections – some of them with people I still work with 16 years later.
Treat everyone you work with and meet with consideration and courtesy and learn everything you can from them. You don’t have anything to lose by that, and you have a lot to gain.
Written By James Rix, Co-founder and CEO, Harrix Group
James Rix is Co-Founder and CEO of Harrix Group (which includes an events division, comprising Wicked Student Nights and Itchy Feet; a staffing/face-to-face marketing division, StreetPR; a design agency, 1788; and a social media agency, Blue Social).