Even though it's still February as I write this, it's not too early to be starting your summer job search. School will end in early June for most high school students and colleges can end as early as mid-May. As with most things in life these days, applying and getting a summer job can be exceedingly competitive. I don't have to mention the job situation here in our American economy. Many adults will be in the applicant pools for summer jobs that have traditionally be the province of teenagers. Things are tough out there.
So what should you be doing now to prepare yourself for the search? Perhaps the best mindset to have is that of a marketer. You have to think of yourself as more than just a person. Instead, add a component of "product" to how you think of yourself. Sure, you look good. You have all the right clothes, know how to find your way around most computers and software, and can even talk a good game. But what evidence can you present to that decision-making individual who has the power to put you on the payroll that will convince him or her that you are the real deal? How can you document your value? Well, an impressive résumé can be the key to unlock all those doors.
Getting into a good summer job college is a lot like trying to get into a good college. In both cases, you need a way to sell yourself. That's where your résumé comes in.
A high school (or college) résumé works like a professional résumé. If you are a junior, planning on applying to for summer jobs that are extremely popular (camp counselor, lifeguard, amusement park worker, etc.), you'll need a very strong tool to market yourself, something to make you stand out from the others. A résumé is the answer.
To put together a high school or college résumé, you need to do some serious reflection. Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask someone in your family, who knows what you have accomplished over the years, to sit with you for an hour or so. The purpose of this exercise is to chronicle the highlights of your academic and extracurricular, and even actual working (job) experience.
Start by listing the biggest academic honors you've garnered, starting with ninth grade. Most employers are interested in only your four years of high school. Please note, though, that if you have done something exceptional in middle or elementary school, make note of it. Academic honors include honor-roll recognition, essay-writing awards, science competitions, and the like. Take time to discuss your history. Make note of everything that comes up. If you have done something exceptionally impressive for a family member (grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.), be sure to note that. Good work is good work, right?
Now turn to your extracurriculars. This category includes clubs you've belonged to, class offices you've held, sports, band, yearbook, and all the other nonacademic activities you've done. Don't forget non-school-related items such as volunteering at a nursing home and jobs you've worked. Include special interests like photography, hiking, writing, and so forth. Detail your uniqueness. You're trying to paint a portrait of yourself; create an action inventory. You never know when a prospective employer might see something you're good at as especially appealing, or at least a skill that has an application in the business you're aspiring to join for the summer.
When you're finished listing everything, put the items into chronological order by category. The title of this document should be something like, "Robert P. Osborne: Personal Highlights," or "Robert P. Osborne: Achievement Summary," or something similar. Your two main categories should be "Academic" and "Other," or "Extra-Curricular." Use three time periods: Elementary (if needed), Middle School (if needed), and Junior-Senior High School. Another heading that might catch an eye is "Work Experience." However, this may be your first outing as a job applicant, so don't be frustrated if you don't have any job history.
When you're done, you'll have a one-sheet profile of your best work and activities. You can include a copy of the résumé with all of your application paperwork to offset the business' paper application's limited space. Don't be afraid to market yourself. If you don't, who will?
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.