The Student's Guide to Everything

The Student's Guide to Everything: university student and graduate life from a New Zealand perspective

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Friday, November 14, 2008

How to find your first student job

OK, so you need a job because there isn't quite enough from the student allowance or student loan to pay for the weekends. There are usually lots of jobs available to students. Here's how to find one.

1. Make a basic Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Believe it or not, yes, you do need a CV. It's a summary of your skills and experience, and shows the employer that you are serious about getting a job. It also gives them something which showcases you in the best light and helps them to remember you.

Sit down with a blank piece of paper or computer screen. Make a list of anything you've ever done which you've been paid for. Washing Dad's car? Babysitting? Milking? Write it down. Also, if you've involved with sports or another extracurricular activity, write those down as well.

Next, think about the skills that you learned to do each job or extracurricular activity, and the challenges that you overcame. Write them down. For example, babysitting your neighbour's children probably taught you to be responsible, how to be on time, and how to sort out an argument. Playing sports probably taught you how to work as part of a team. Working in the school tuck shop probably taught you to be trustworthy and to handle change. Even if you have no work experience, you can still show the employer through your CV what kind of person you are, and what your strengths are.

Employers want people who will show up on time, work hard, and keep working even if they don't feel like doing it. They want people who aren't afraid to ask questions if they don't understand, but who can take the initiative sometimes and not require constant supervision. They want people who can get along with others with different backgrounds, and work as part of a team. Make sure your CV shows how you have these skills from your other jobs and activities.

Create your CV on a computer. First list out the words 'Curriculum Vitae' on the top, in large letters. Then below, in smaller letters, list your name, address, contact phone number and student email address.

List each job you have done before, in order of the time you did them (month and year). Underneath, list the skills you already identified earlier. Do some research online to help format your CV, or ask someone to help you. When you're happy with it, print out multiple copies of your new CV.

2. Make a list of places to apply

Think about the places you might like to work. Make a list of them. Why do you want to work at each one? Look through job listings at Student Job Search, online or the newspaper. Remember that not all jobs are ever advertised, and sometimes it's best to just walk into the places you want to work, and ask them. It shows the employer that you are interested and ambitious if you ask them even when no job is advertised.

3. Iron your shirt!

Prepare to apply to each company you will walk into, by dressing neatly and wearing a shirt. (You don't have to wear a suit. Take out your piercings, though.) First impressions are very important, and if you don't dress nicely to impress, the employer will think you don't care enough about the company or the job.

4. Walk in confidently

Stand up straight and walk in confidently when you approach a company. Ask to see the manager. Make eye contact and have a firm handshake. Managers want to hire people with good communication skills, who are confident and approachable. If you slouch, or look shy, and act like you aren't serious about getting a job, you won't get one. You may feel terrified, but act confident and show the employer you are serious about working for them.

5. Prepare for "no"

Sometimes, employers that you've approached just are not hiring at the moment. It's nothing to do with you personally, although it may feel like it. Nobody gets accepted at every single place they apply for a job. Nobody. Be prepared for someone to say, "No, I'm sorry."

When a manager or business owner says they have no need for you, hold your head high and say, "Well, if you do need someone in the future, please give me a call. I'll leave you a copy of my CV. Thanks for your time."

This shows the manager that you are serious about getting a job, and you have demonstrated the ability to follow up. If you sulk out of the store or are rude, it shows you aren't mature or serious about the job. Again, do not be rude. It will backfire on you. Cities are surprisingly small places.

6. Follow up

This is one thing that's really important. Following up with the employer after an interview or meeting shows responsibility and a willingness to get involved. Call the employer back or visit again about a week later, and ask whether they've made a decision on the job. Make sure you talk to the manager, instead of relying on someone else to pass along a message for you.

Keep applying and following up until you get your first student job!


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