Aliya Noorani, a fourth-year business student at the University of Calgary, is on the hunt for a summer job – and the competition is fierce.
The 21-year-old, who aspires to a career in marketing, says good grades aren’t enough to impress.
“You have to really show them who you are. You can’t just say you’re the best at school. You have to show what extracurricular activities you’ve been in, if you’re involved in anything else and just to show your personality,” she said, adding she’s used videos and even poems and raps to set herself apart from the pack.
“The hunt is really crazy. Everyone wants the jobs. It’s really cutthroat.”
Melissa Jarman, head of student banking at Royal Bank of Canada, agrees it’s tough out there.
“One of the things we’re telling students is now is the time. For some of them, they started long before March trying to set up summer employment,” she said.
“And with what we know about tuition and the cost of going to school in general across Canada, it’s more imperative than ever that students land jobs – and hopefully well-paying jobs.”
For some students, becoming their own boss for the summer might be a good option – painting homes, tutoring or babysitting, for instance. The creativity and initiative involved could be very appealing to employers down the road.
“Treat it like a real business, even though it’s scaled down. Work in advance to think about how you’re going to drum up business,” said Jarman.
She adds student entrepreneurs should also consider startup costs and do some market research to figure out what they should charge.
If students want to add work experience to their resume that’s relevant to their field of study, it might mean taking on an unpaid internship. But not everyone has the financial ability to do that.
“It is probably something that many are going to consider. For them, though, it’s the matter of figuring out, do you have the time to do something else or do you have the resources to also go to school and pay for school?,” asked Jarman.
“So it may mean they may have to get a little more creative and look to other sources in order to pay for their education while they do these internships to gain experience. So I’m sure for many of them, the experience is valuable and for many maybe even necessary. But it does create a challenge – no question about it.”
Colleen Bangs, director of Career Services at the University of Calgary, says social media plays an important role in the job hunt.
“It’s really important for youth to at least start thinking about building a really comprehensive LinkedIn profile and make sure that profile matches up with whatever they’re presenting on their CV or resume,” she said, adding it may be worthwhile to check out profiles of student club presidents or other admired peers.
“Don’t make your LinkedIn profile public until it is something you would want an employer to see.”
Employers may also want to check out profiles on more social sites, like Facebook – so be careful what you post.
Bangs said students shouldn’t get too fixated on landing a job that’s right in their field.
“No matter where you’re going to work, you’re going to get some good experience and then you really have to focus in on how you’re going to present that information,” she said.
“I think that people often underestimate themselves. I think that they don’t see the value necessarily in the work that they’ve done or they’re not connecting the dots.”
First-year environmental science student Spencer Klettke says he’s looking forward to a second summer working at a small “ma and pa” amusement park in scenic Columbia Valley in the B.C. Interior.
“I was getting the place ready for the summer season, building things, cleaning up, doing maintenance and then as the season went on, we got more customers, I was sort of assigned to the bumper cars and I was a mechanic,” he said.
“I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It was great. It’s changed me entirely as a person, just as every experience does.”
Klettke landed the job old-fashioned way.
“I brought a handful of resumes and I went from place to place, handed them out, talking to people, just being myself.”