Tips from the Career Lab: Planning for summer

two students speaking at the career fair

This career tip is by Emily Ingalls '20, career peer. Meet with Emily and other career peers during drop-in hours for the Career Lab

As the end of the semester seems to be getting closer and closer, it is easy to get caught in a panic about future plans. If you are looking for an experiential education opportunity, either for the summer or for post-graduation life, read on for some tips and answers to common questions!

How do I build experience if I’m inexperienced?

Finding your first job can be challenging, whether you are a first-year student trying to snag your first internship, or a graduating senior seeking an entry-level position. Fortunately, there are many stepping-stones that can help lead you to your dream job. Experiential education can take many forms, so try to keep an open mind about what you can do!
Below are some example ways to build experience this summer:

  1. Summer internships
  2. Apprenticeships
  3. Volunteering at charities
  4. Starting a project, especially something you are passionate about
  5. Working as a seasonal or part-time employee (try retail jobs, food and beverage jobs, office jobs, etc.)
  6. Pursuing research
  7. Studying or working abroad

Where can I look for job opportunities?

The internet is full of open positions and online job boards. Handshake is one great place to start because it is catered to CWRU students! Also try LinkedIn, Glassdoor or specific company sites. Try setting up search alerts on various sites so you can be notified when new jobs that match your interests are posted. Don’t wait until the deadline to send in your application, because the best time is within the first 48 hours of the posting.
Though many opportunities are listed online, be sure to reach out to people you know. Having a personal connection or reference will make the job hunt significantly easier. Utilize the power of social media, networking events and informational interviews to build connections with people in your desired field.

What if I don’t think I have enough experience to apply?

Frustratingly, many entry-level jobs, and even internships, desire candidates who already have work experience. Try applying anyway if you believe you are otherwise a great fit for the position and have the skills and personality to succeed.
When applying, make sure your resume is up-to-date and error-free. Read the job posting carefully and edit your resume to demonstrate you have the necessary skills. The more customized the resume is for the specific position, the better! Stop into the Career Lab if you want additional resume help.

I got selected for an interview, now what should I do?

  1. Study up on the company and make sure you are well-prepared to answer their common interview questions. If there is a technical interview component, be sure to practice or prepare for that.
  2. Take 10 minutes to write out your strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle, try speaking with people who know you well. 
  3. Find the balance between being assertive and modest. Confidence is important, but so is being able to admit when you do not know an answer.
  4. Be enthusiastic and clearly convey your interest in the position. Be sure to think about why you want the job and why you find the company appealing.
  5. Know your transferable skills (perhaps acquired from other experiences) that are relevant to the specific job you’re applying to.
  6. Demonstrate a willingness to learn.
  7. Follow up with a brief thank you note within 24 hours after the interview. Only one in four job applicants do this, so this will help you stand out!

I’ve been applying forever! How can I stay motivated?

If your peers on campus and on social media seem to have all of their plans set already, do not feel discouraged or left behind! Finding an entry-level job can take three to six months on average and other experiences can take a similar amount of time to secure.
Try keeping these things in mind:

  1. Don’t take rejections personally—many reasons for rejection may have nothing to do with your abilities. Some factors are impossible to control, which is frustrating, but all you can do is your best.
  2. Treat the search and application process like a class. Set aside specific blocks of time to look for opportunities and try to keep this time separate from your other activities.
  3. Take breaks for your hobbies. Having hobbies and other outlets are great for your mental health and can also be a conversation topic for interviews!
  4. Look after yourself. Sleeping, eating healthy foods, and exercise, though often preached, truly make a difference and will help you perform your best.
  5. Your first experience does not need to be perfect. Sometimes, any experience is good experience! You may even discover something new that you enjoy.

Ultimately, think about what you want to accomplish or learn most and design your summer to fit those goals. Everyone’s plans will be shaped a little differently, and sometimes it takes more time than expected to find an opportunity.
Try putting some of these tips to work and stop by the PGP&EE in Sears 229 for custom appointments, drop-in services or help with any other career planning needs. We’re here to assist you!