As a former co-op student at Ryerson University, I get a lot of students coming up to me for advice. You see, I didn’t get my 4 co-op jobs from blasting out resumes, like everyone else.
I knew that I wouldn’t get noticed trying to be better.
There were people who had higher GPAs than I did, with experience at more prestigious companies, or maybe just volunteered more time than I did in high school.
So instead, I tried to be different. I approached the job hunting process with the mindset of, What could I do that will make me different, rather than better?
These 3 tips outline the most important mindsets I needed to be different, rather than better.
Let’s get into it.
Tip #1: Know What You Want
As Stephen Covey teaches in his seminal productivity book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you have to “begin with the end in mind.” This means that to know the right steps to take for your career, you have to know what you want first.
And that’s why one of the biggest mistakes people make when they start looking for a job is that they start the whole process by updating their resume.
It’s impossible to tailor your resume and cover letter for a specific job if you don’t know the first thing about it.
Instead, by having an idea of (a) what position you want, and (b) what job you want, you can ask more specific questions when you take someone out for coffee or land an interview.
And you know what? It’s OK if you’re wrong. It’s OK if you change your mind after learning about a role or a company. And it’s OK to have false initial assumptions.
Tip #2: Employers Understand that You’re Still a Student
If this is your first time looking for a full-time job, your resume probably doesn’t look too exciting. Maybe your experiences are from high school, or you’re worried that all you have to show are unpaid work experiences.
Let me put those fears to rest right now.
Go into any coffee meeting, job interview, or networking event with the (comforting) knowledge that employers don’t expect you to be an expert.
They don’t expect you to know how to do write an SQL script, or to calculate the risk for an investment that they’re shorting.
Instead, keep in mind that high quality employers are looking for people with potential and hunger, in addition to being easy to work with.
So those are the qualities you have to show. You can put your graphing calculator back in your bag now.
Tip #3: Start Early
You might be sitting in front of your computer right now and thinking, Easy for you to say, Roxine! But in the field I’m in, I’m competing with people who have work experiences from Google, Apple, and Amazon. They have solid skills, and they’re still in school!
They might have more experience than you, sure. But there’s always going to be someone better, smarter, and more experienced than you or me.
However if there’s one thing everyone has in common, it’s time. No matter how much more experienced your competitors are, if you start doing the steps in this roadmap early, you still have a fighting chance.
How early, you ask?
If this is your first time looking for a job, I would recommend starting Step 1 around 6-7 months before your intended start date.
When I was looking for my first summer co-op job, I started the process of building my network in October—that’s actually 8 months before my May start date.
In addition, I’d recommend starting to apply for jobs 4-5 months before your starting date. In Canada, our summers tend to start in May – this means that you should start applying for jobs around January.
And even if it’s too late for you, remember: The best time to start was yesterday, the next best time to start is today.
In your job hunt, focus on being different and showing that difference to potential employers.
When you’re called into an interview, stay calm by remembering that they’re not looking for super technical, hard skills. They just want to know if you’d be a cool person to hire for the summer and if you will make them look good to their boss.
Finally, start as early as you can before anyone else. Start looking today.
Hope these tips help!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.