If you want your summer job search to reach 95 degrees, you need to go where people like to hang out in the heat – and then make sure your professionalism mixes nicely with the pleasures of summer.
The job market has cooled down somewhat in recent months, with hiring slowing this month especially for service sector employers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management monthly survey. Layoffs also have picked up the pace, and Challenger Gray Christmas expects more of them in the computer and food industries in months ahead.
Indeed, with many professional groups on summer hiatus, you need to seek out summer-time networking opportunities and meet managers on occasions in some non-traditional places and ways. So try these four targets and approaches to ramp up your summer job search:
1. Use company picnics as a way to connect.
See if your college frat brother or mom's best friend will invite you along, and intrude you to a few decision makers in the department where you want to work. The key is to make some new friends, some people who like you enough that they may want to help you in your search. "Show a genuine and sincere interest in the other person," said Gordon S. Curtis, an executive coach and author of Well Connected. Go beyond the basic questions asked at every cocktail party and find out about their dreams, their families, their passions. You want them to leave, thinking "Wow! I really enjoyed this person."
2. Class reunions make great networking events.
So do family reunions if you come from a pride that is spread out far and wide, with a few high achievers among the cousins. The trick on this is to know who will be there ahead of time, and to carefully select a few people you want to visit. Target those in jobs or sectors where you want doors opened, and yet be open to the serendipity of someone else who's very well connected as the person who will give you the lead you need.
3. Target employers in need of staff.
Choose three to five employers that are busy this time of year. Those companies may be more inclined to hire you, even if it's a three month contract job. Think of companies in the hospitality field or amusement parks or even the landscaping companies. Manufacturing companies also are growing, according to SHRM and also CareerBuilder. Or consider companies with lots of openings; CareerBuilder recently reported that AT&T, Community Health Systems and Wells Fargo each had at least 1,000 or more than 4,500 open jobs.
4. Look for summer golf outings, July 4th parades and community swim-a-thons or races.
These are charity or community events, but they also are packed with top executives and decision makers from many major employers. So sign up as a volunteer or offer to staff a sign-in table at the fun run or the swim club fundraiser. You will be in the right place to meet and make a favorable impression on some top brass.
Once you're there, be strategic, but don't be obnoxious about your interest in a new job – or in growing your circle of contacts at that organization or employer. Just because you're eager to talk business does not mean everyone will be. After you've made a connection, suggest you come to their office or call them the next week to talk about your career hopes or a contact you hope to obtain.
Steer clear of politics and downer or dreary topics. Sometimes when I go to networking events, I plan my topics or questions ahead of time. I may have to read up on how the Detroit Tigers are playing, or check the 'what's hot' list on Twitter for something fun and upbeat, but I like to know I have a topic to fall back on to keep the conversation going for a while. Of course, the best conversations are natural and flow from great questions and shared interests.
Once the event is over, make your follow-up taste like lemonade with a spring of mint – refreshing and sweet and something people are glad to see delivered into their inbox. Be sincere in your appreciation for the conversation you already had, and hopeful that you could take 15 minutes of their time to ask a couple of career questions – or direct you to a hiring manager who may appreciate your talents, collaborative approach and hard work, even in the hottest days of summer.
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