Advice and thoughtful leadership from our experts.

Your College Summer Success Guide

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Heading to College Next Year? What’s your Career Plan?


If you don’t hear this from your Business 101 class – listen up!


I was recently asked to provide career advice to first year business school students at Clemson University. My advice centers around having a strategic path of summer jobs and/or co-ops as you progress through your college years.


First step, try to look ahead. What do you want your resume to look like in 4 years? Will your experience only include your education and your clubs and organizations? Will you list your GPA or not? Will the resume be hard to create? Will your resume be questionable to an employer on what career you wish to pursue once you graduate? This last question is so key when you become a senior and are hunting for that first opportunity.


So, let’s look at what your summer jobs should ideally look like over the next 3 years. For this example, I will use a business school student who wishes to work during the summer months.


Summer after your Freshman year:

Your parents may not like to read this, but my recommendation is to have a “Destination Job”. Have some fun! Take a job in a different city and find some friends to share rent and experience life away from home. Yes, I understand this costs money, but if you are ok cramming into a house with several other friends and sharing cost, it is certainly doable. I had 2 jobs one summer and earned plenty of money to use during my Fall and Spring semester. Hard work in a fun destination will teach you many life skills and you’ll certainly gain valuable experiences to remember! The job does not have to be relevant to your major. Waiting tables, lifeguarding, construction, working as a valet, etc. Anything that will earn enough money for expenses and some savings for the school year will suffice. The goal from your job this summer is to have a valuable job reference to add to your resume. So, work hard and be the best employee – wherever you find employment! How can you be the best? On the days you are scheduled to work, show up every day early – not on time – early! Ask what else you can be doing to stay productive during working hours. Be overly helpful and have the best attitude. If they need you to stay late or work on a Saturday – volunteer and be happy with it. A job reference is your golden ticket to your next opportunity, but you need to earn it!


Summer after your Sophomore year:

Ok, last summer was fun, but now it’s time to get down to business. Finding an internship with a company that would benefit your major is ideal. For instance, if you want to be a banker, landing an internship with a bank that will take you through an organized 8-week program is ideal. However, since a lot of companies tend to hire rising seniors for internships, this might be a tough job to land. Option B for the inspiring banker would be to seek positions as a banking teller or customer service representative – ideally at a bank or credit union. Financial institutions are always looking for this skillset and a reputable staffing agency might have a few opportunities as well. If you strikeout at the college job fair, search on Indeed, banking job boards, or again; find a reputable staffing and recruiting firm. If all else fails, working in any office setting would be ideal. Learning how business flows and how to react to clients in general is a valuable skillset and will look good on a resume. Once again, you are working for an awesome job reference so the same advice from above applies!


Summer after your Junior year:

Great, you have two golden job references from the last two summers! Now it’s crunch time! The good news, your resume looks pretty good at this point in time which should allow you to gain a valuable internship related to your major. Additionally, your references come straight from direct supervisors – very important. Attending job fairs and searching job boards for internships relative to your major should be top priority during the Fall semester of your Junior year. Spend a few hours each week on this endeavor. Also, you may want to visit your school’s career office often throughout the semester. Get to know the people that work there. They are very good at recommending students – especially the ones that are taking extra effort in obtaining an internship and/or job. Again, the ideal job for an inspiring banker will be with a bank or credit union. Further, this internship may lead to a fulltime offer once you graduate. So, if you are in the position of deciding between job opportunities, consider the position that would suit you in the long term. Treat this job like an ongoing working interview. Again, being the best employee during this internship will provide you with your 3rd relevant job reference. Don’t be surprised if the internship produces a job offer and then you’ll have no worries heading into your senior year!


So, May of your senior year rolls around. What does your resume look like now? The business student in the above scenario will have some great options for his or her career start. Future employers will recognize a student who is career minded and eager to work hard. Plus, having 3 references from direct supervisors will make it easy for your future manager to learn more about you. Sprinkle in some organizations and a good GPA – wow – your marketability will exceed your expectations!


Written by Drew Brown, VP of Sales and Marketing