Every summer since I have been in university, I have worked non-internship and non-university major-related positions. Now that I am an old, decrepit fourth-year student, I would like to share some sage advice about summer employment — you should have started looking last week.

Trust me, I’m not saying this to scare you, albeit maybe just to shock you, and since I forgot the icy water and hit you upside the head with the bucket, I might as well just say it:

Getting a head start now will feel much nicer than the beginning of April when final exams are breathing down your neck.

Saying this, I know finding a job is hard. Last year, it took me until mid-May to secure a position — and it wasn’t even the job I wanted. Luckily, I had been applying to other jobs around the same time, and I quickly jumped on another opportunity with much better working conditions and financial compensation.

In my experience, it’s hard not to panic when so many unknowns exist. To avoid this, begin by diversifying your search and using the key strategies I have found over the years for more flexibility in the next few months. 

  1. Get off the job websites.

Indeed, Glassdoor,  Craigslist, you name it —  most students have probably been using it. These are super accessible resources that are great for seeing tons of opportunities in your area — and there lies the problem. Everyone and their dogs (well, maybe not them) use these websites, too. 

I suggest looking at company websites that interest you or university sites for open positions. For example, the UBCO job board has many on-campus opportunities and summer positions. Likewise, every company website will have contact information and likely job opportunities listed, and applying directly to the company almost always guarantees you a better chance of hearing back. 

  1. Use that LinkedIn page.

Everyone is on social media, so make sure to update your LinkedIn. This platform is almost exclusively for business connections, but by expanding your network, you have the ability to reach out to recruiters from different companies. If you're doing cold approaches, ensure your page is up to date, and avoid the “Can I pick your brain?” approach at all costs. Know what you want, be professional, and make an impression — maybe you don’t get the job now, but there is always later.

  1. Don’t be afraid to customize.

I hate to break it to you if this is your first time job searching — you’ll be making a lot of applications. Last year, I submitted ten job applications before hearing a callback; this is on the low side for most. To put it lightly — job searching is exhausting.

The biggest aspect of applications many people get wrong is not customizing their resume and cover letter for the job. Not every workplace needs to know you worked as a sandwich artist or that you’re fluent in Simlish. Make sure to put only the relevant experience first and list the skills necessary for the job requirements.

Speaking of cover letters, this might be controversial, but if you are short on time and need multiple letters in one day, then ChatGPT will be your friend. I’m not saying to use it completely, but sometimes this software can help give you ideas on how to format your skills to the job requirements when you’re in a pinch. Granted, this should never be used to substitute your own thoughts and ideas or in an unwarranted academic setting.

  1. Be the personality hire.

Okay, let’s say you got the interview, and now you’re in the hot seat. This means you will want to do some research. Researching the company and the possible interviewers ahead of time will give you a huge advantage in the interview room. Trust me, you don’t need to know everything in the job description, but if you come up with a can-do attitude and charm the pants off your interviewer, they’ll remember you better than anyone else.

  1. Don’t settle for less.

Once you’re done with your interview and walking outside, whistling a merry tune, knowing you crushed that meeting — the cards are in your hand. Every job is an experience, and as someone who has not had the luxury to do an internship and get paid “in experience,” I’ve always held my cards close.

Negotiating the starting salary is one of the easiest ways to get a pay raise at the beginning of your job. If you have an offer and know the position is not paying market value, ask for more. Remember, at this stage in the game, the company likes you and wants you on their team.

Job searches are never easy. Set yourself up early by starting early and pacing yourself. 

Apply to postings that interest you, and set monthly goals to make this tedious task a little more manageable. Either way, don’t give up — a job is just a job, and as long as you get whatever you need out of it, it was worth a try in the first place.