RP Insights: Getting Your First Job or Internship Offer
Like most young people, you’re probably eager to get some work experience. But how do you navigate the employment scene when you’ve never had a job before? This guide is designed to address some of the initial concerns of finding your first job: including where to look, how to apply, and how to communicate with your potential employer.
Finding Job/Internship Opportunities
There are two main routes to investigate when looking for job or internship opportunities: online search engines, which compile employment availabilities on a national scale, and within your local community, where open positions may be communicated verbally or posted in common areas within your town.
You’ll want to look for positions that align with both your interests and your geographic location—particularly if you’re trying to work a job or internship during the school year. Landing an internship in New York City might seem great, but if you go to school in Montana, this probably isn’t doable when you have class too. During the search process, consider what field you’d like to go into, where the internship is located geographically, and what other commitments you’ll be balancing at that time of year. Does the position you’ve found meet all those criteria?
To facilitate the search process, RoundPier offers its own online search engine that can connect you with opportunities for remote work (which is done over Skype/online and can be completed regardless of where you live) as well as internships near your geographic area. Look under the “Eduniverse” tab of your account to find out more.
How to Apply
Once you’ve located a job or internship opportunity, your next step is to communicate to employers that you’re interested in the position. For some roles, the job posting will include clear next steps, such as completing an online application or submission of a resume and cover letter; for others, however, next steps can be less defined.
Here are some loose guidelines:
1. If the position has a clear application/submission process, follow the instructions and wait to hear back. Make sure to adhere to all guidelines the employer establishes: for instance, if you’re instructed not to email regarding whether or not you’ve been moved to the interview stage, then don’t email! Their instructions are written for a reason, and following them as closely as possible will show that you’ve read the application guidelines in detail.
2. If the application process is less defined—for instance, if the employer just lists an email or a phone number—communicate your interest clearly and articulately through this contact method. When emailing a potential employer, articulate your interest in the position and what skills you have that would make you a good fit for the organization; if you have a resume (even if it just includes school clubs and extracurriculars), you should attach it to this email too. A phone call should follow a similar format: tell the employer why you’re interested, what skills you have that would suit this role, and offer to send your resume to them after the call.
3. Try to build up an online profile of your accomplishments and achievements through RoundPier, LinkedIn, or similar web platforms. This can function similar to a virtual resume and will give you an opportunity to further highlight your skills.
4. If an employer contacts you for an interview or asking for additional information, respond promptly and professionally. Address them by their last name (Mr./Ms.) unless they introduce themselves more informally, make sure that your emails have a salutation (“Dear Mr. Smith,”), and list specific dates and times that you would be free to interview. Sign off the email with a formal closing like “Best,” or “Sincerely.”
To get your first job, you’ll likely have to send out multiple different applications to a variety of potential employers; this will broaden the possibility of getting an offer back.
Communicating with Potential Employers
As mentioned above, you’ll be communicating with employers in a few different ways: emails, in-person conversations, and possibly an interview. During these interactions, keep in mind the formality of the situation: making sure your communications are grammatically correct, respectful, and sufficiently detailed. You never want to respond to a potential employer’s email with something like:
Sent from my iPhone.”
Instead, a potential response should look like this:
“Dear Ms. Smith,
Thank you for checking in. Yes, I’d be happy to speak with you this Sunday at 10 a.m. to learn more about the position.
Talk to you then,
Maintain professionalism in all communications, even if the employer is less formal in their interactions with you.
Additionally, make sure to convey authentic reasons for applying to the position; you should never leave a potential employer feel like you’re “just doing this to get into college.” Instead, how could this opportunity help you to actualize your passions and interact with others? What specific aspects of the job are you excited about and how will doing this job/internship make you into a better person overall? When communicating your interest in a position, focus on the qualities and skills you’ll pick up from the job rather than framing it as a tool for resume-building.
Accepting an Offer
Once you’ve heard good news, take some time to celebrate, read over the employment contract if you’re provided with one, and make sure that the job is something that you both want to do and are able to fulfill given your other commitments. If that’s still true, then let your employer know that you’ll be accepting the position, sign any necessary contracts/agreements, and get started!