As a student, finding a summer job to earn money for the upcoming school year can be a troublesome task. Many students stick to jobs that are traditional "student" jobs, such as working at coffee shops, fast food restaurants, or at a camp. While these jobs are of course fine for thousands of students, I had the absolute pleasure of working with a fantastic Toronto-based company, which I will leave nameless as these steps can apply to a variety of business-type jobs. Here's how I had fun learning, meeting amazing people, and saving to pay for University while doing it.
First, as is the case with almost every job, there is an interview. These can be panic-inducing, stressful occasions as many students may have never gone through one before, or at least not one for a formal business position. How did I pass mine? Well, I greeted each of my three interviewers by STANDING UP and shaking their hands, making eye contact with each one and smiling. It's easy to get nervous to the point of forgetting such mundane things as a handshake, but if you can't manage to greet your interviewers, how will you greet the people in the workplace with confidence and inspire them to work with you or use your service? A great technique that famous UFC fighter Conor McGregor uses is VISUALIZATION. The night before your interview, try visualizing how it will go. See yourself arriving, and taking the elevator up to the 7th floor with confidence. See yourself greeting the lovely lady at the front desk, and sitting with good posture after thanking her when she shows you to the interview room. See yourself standing up when your interviewers walk in and greeting them all. If you do this, you will feel much more calm come interview time, because subconsciously you will feel like you've already done the interview.
Next, given you successfully complete your interview and go through the hiring paperwork, you'll be starting work. In my case, I was a fill-in office administrator, which meant I moved from site to site quite often. How did I have such a great summer if I was constantly moving from place to place and rarely seeing the same person twice? Well, there are some things you can do that work regardless of where you are. The first thing, and often what helped me the most is remembering names of as many people as possible. It can be easy to let your eagerness take over and try to go straight to the office, but stop and introduce yourself to the concierge, cleaning staff, or anyone else you think you may see again while working there. Personally, I always made sure to greet the person at the front desk of wherever I was going. Not only is this polite, but as a fill-in I often had no idea where I was going, and the people that spend their time at the site I was at for only a short time certainly know much more about their surroundings than I would have. Remembering the names not only of people working with you, but also of clients, contractors, board members, or even people's pets makes them believe that you truly care and recognize them as important, which will certainly make your job more pleasant. I learned in my psychology class that there is no sound quite like hearing your own name, so remembering other people's is a great idea.
Another thing I did was simply try to learn as much as possible from everyone. If I was working with a more experienced person in the office, I would ask them questions, and watch to see the way they did things. When I learned things from someone, I would even take notes on my phone, and would use them when I got to the next site to make myself more efficient. At the end of the job I felt comfortable with things that I was really nervous about at the beginning. I had the pleasure of working with many patient and knowledgable people who would help me, regardless of how many times I may have repeated the same questions in the beginning.
The last tip I have is really one that you probably already have if you passed the interview stage, but should remain at the forefront of your thoughts during your summer position. What am I talking about? PROFESSIONALISM. How did I display professionalism in my summer job? Firstly, I was under no circumstances, not one single day, late to work. If the office opened at 9 AM and it was an hour drive for me to get there, I would leave my house at 7 AM just in case there was traffic. Being early makes a great impression, and shows that you care enough to respect a simple 9-5 guideline. People would rarely come in to see me at 9:05 AM, but when they did and saw the door open and me greeting them, I could visibly see their relief and appreciation. Another way I displayed professionalism was in my physical appearance. I'm a normal 20 year old guy. I like the scruffy beard look, and detest wearing neckties, but from May 01 to September 01 I was cleanly shaven, with a pressed shirt and a tie on. The last thing you want is for someone to call Security because there's a kid who looks like he's trying to break into the office when he's supposed to be working there. People notice if your shirt looks wrinkly, if your face is scruffy, and if you're a man not wearing a tie. In today's world, appearance is a critical part of office life. Just think: Whether you sign a new client, for example, can be dependent on whether or not you took 5 minutes to press your shirt.
To summarize, here is a shortened version of how I had a great time at my summer position at the age of 20.
1) Nail the interview. Visualize it the night before. When you get there, stand up straight, smile, and greet your interviewers with professional enthusiasm.
2) Remember people's names. People are more likely to listen to what you have to say if they feel you understand them on a more personal level, and there's nothing like using someone's name to achieve that. Which sounds better to you? "Hi, where's the office?", or "Hi John, my name is Justin. I'll be working here today; would you mind showing me to the office?".
3) Learn as much as you can. The biggest mistake one can make is thinking they know everything. I can tell you personally that had I done that, I probably wouldn't have lasted a week. If you don't know something, DO NOT make up an answer. A client would rather hear "Ms. Smith, let me double check and I'll personally call you back within 15 minutes," over some made up answer that can, and most likely will make matters worse. Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't know something. As Harvey Spectre said in the TV show "suits", "If you're the smartest person in the room, then you're in the wrong room."
4) Look the part. Chances are, if you work in an office you represent someone. Whether that's a Board of Directors, residents of a condominium, or her Majesty the Queen. When you look professional, and combine that with the other tips above, your office experience should be off to a great start. Also, if you look good, chances are you'll feel good, and being happy at work makes the days fly by.
Thank you for reading!