6 Steps to Landing Yourself More Than Minimum Wage

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As the fall semester approaches, some students have started thinking about how to go from working 30 hours a week back home to having no job on campus. With so many students wanting to make a little extra cash, everyone faces fierce competition for even the most basic jobs during the school year. With these six steps, you can get a part-time job or paid internship while in school.

1. Don’t waste your time

Whether or not you worked or not over the summer, you need to make sure to do something productive with your time. Whether you volunteer with local elementary schools or join the board of a campus club, spending time doing something besides sitting in a classroom shows a potential employer that you can do more than regurgitate information. If you want to get a paid internship with a media company, join the campus newspaper. If you want to work in the campus library, volunteer at the community library.

“Employers are not just satisfied with a college degree. They look for not only academic experience, but work experience. Having a diversity of experiences will help you get a job. Each part of your college experience is valuable,” said American University Career Counselor Anna Litman. Anything helps your job search as long as you do something that shows you have skills. Bonus: It will show that you don’t sit around watching Netflix 24/7.

2. Brand yourself

Although I don’t know anyone who doesn’t waste hours on social media every day, many of my peers don’t have a profile that appropriately represents them to a potential employer. In an era where you don’t exist unless you have social media, you need to know how to brand yourself. When someone Googles your name, you want to make sure that your social media profiles come up first, according to American University Professor Scott Talan, If not, you won’t exist to a potential employer and all of your hard work goes to waste.

Don’t forget to make sure you don’t have any inappropriate posts on your Twitter or Linkedin, such as a photo of you with a red solo cup in hand (even if it’s not filled with your favorite beer). Most importantly, don’t complain about any current or past jobs or employers. It looks tacky and makes you un-hirable.

A little humble bragging won’t hurt either. “Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. Sure it may feel like you’re bragging, but if there are multiple people applying for the same position you are, it is extremely important to make sure you include all that you think you should and more,” said American University sophomore Brandan Persaud.

This online branding also extends to your resume and cover letter. Keep your resume and cover letter design clean, but creative and free from errors. Colleges usually have a career center that look over resumes and cover letters to help you show yourself in the best possible light.

3. Actually search for jobs

After completing the preliminary preparation to apply for jobs, you need to find some jobs to apply to. Websites such as Indeed.com or Internships.com offer applications for everyone, but usually your school’s career center website or jobs board has jobs that are easier to get. Since the only people who can see these jobs go to your school, this decreases the applicant pool, and means that the company specifically wants a student from your university (which also gives you a leg up). If you want to work in a specific company or department at your school, look on their jobs board as well. You’ll also want to check out career fairs at your school or in your area, especially at the beginning of the semester when companies are looking to hire.

Don’t hesitate to apply to jobs that aren’t exactly what you want. I had a marketing internship even though I want to be a journalist, because it gave me an opportunity to practice my writing and editing in a professional environment. Numbers are what count in the job search game, so applying to jobs that may not necessarily seem like the perfect fit for you can increase your likelihood of getting something.

As you find jobs you want to apply to, keep a running list in one place. Personally, I like to write down the link to the application, the company, the job title, the application due date, any relevant contact information and the materials that the application requires.

4. See the opportunity, not the dollar bills

When looking for a job, make sure to pay attention to what the job will entail. If it sounds like it’s busywork, then you might not get as much out of the opportunity. “It’s never too early to start developing professional connections because that takes time. That may have very immediate results, like getting an internship, or it may not have that result. But it will help down the road. Getting a job also helps with networking because it helps expand your circle,” said Litman.

You also should think about the potential benefits that the job can have. “A lot of college jobs do not pay well, so look for other aspects of the job such as flexibility and coworker relationships. Your job can be a good support system and stable foundation for the hectic college life,” said Fujii.

5. Get ready for the limelight

Before sending out your kickass resume and cover letter, create a template email to send to companies, and save your documents with the appropriate names and file types. Fujii said, “Make your application pop. What makes you stand out? Is there an interesting story or experience that you bring to the table? If so, make sure to write in a genuine and interesting way in the cover letter.”

Unless the application specifically states how to save it, I recommend saving your documents as pdfs and with a title like “Last name_First name_Title of Job_Resume.” Saving your documents as PDFs makes it easier for employers to open on their computers no matter what programs they have. Make sure to ask professors or past employers well in advance for letters of recommendation. After sending each application, keep a running document with the name of the company, the name of the position and the date that you applied on so you can easily follow the last step to getting a job.

6. Follow up

Most people forget to follow-up after applying for a job. If you can and it feels appropriate, stopping by in person shows your dedication to getting the job. Even if you can’t stop by in person, sending a polite follow-up email two weeks after you first applied will show that you care.

“Students apply and wait and wait. I don’t want to say that following up will guarantee a job, but it will increase your chances. Students need to be proactive and follow up,” said Litman. Most importantly, definitely follow up after an interview, but don’t do it if the application requests that you don’t contact them again.

Shira is a sophomore pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and biology at American University in Washington, D.C. She is a self-described overachiever who grew up near San Francisco and likes to makes sure that you know so. Beyond a passion for journalism and genetics, she enjoys singing, going monumenting, and obsessing over politicians and YouTubers.


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