Everybody says it, all the time: It's important to get a student job, and it's even more important to find the right student job.
"But how do I find the right one? I don't know anybody. What do I even have to offer?"
These are some of the many questions that DM's consultant, Karen Plenge Johansen, hears from many students contacting DM to get help finding the right student job.
"When you ask them about their network, they tend to get this really distant look in their eyes. It's important for them to be consciously building their own network", says Karen Plenge. "I mean, I don't know anybody who can help me" is often the answer. And that may well be the case — of course, you don't have a professional network yet when you're in your second or third year at uni.
But you have to start with what you already have:
Friends, family, groups, clubs, and everyone else you interact with. This is your "tier 1 network", the people you already know personally.
"Where it gets interesting is when you see who they do know", says Karen Plenge Johansen.
There are many ways to use your network, but first and foremost, it's a question of getting into a research kind of mindset. Generally, your network isn't going to just get you a job, but they can help you to become wiser about yourself.
"Have a chat with some people who know you, and find out if any of them know someone who can help 'a guy like you' get somewhere. One of them might know someone whose work is similar to what you're interested in. You might also have them help you figure out what you can put on your CV and job applications, and how to put it on there.
You're researching what kind of use a workplace might have for a person like you, and that research may lead you down many different roads before you find something you can really use. So, you have to be patient, remember to follow up, take initiative when the ball is in your court, and generally treat others the way you'd want them to treat you.
For example, remember to thank people for their help when they've helped you along in your research.
This can be difficult to express on your own, but with a little mentorship and help from your network, you can wise up to yourself and more easily describe yourself as a part of the kind of workplace you'd like to work at."
Also, when talking to people in your network, you can tell them yourself what you have to contribute to your network. For example, maybe you've worked as a coach for small children at a local athletic club, or maybe you've held a position on the board of directors of a club or association.
All of these things give you skills that you can use when looking for a student job. However, they're often things that we ourselves forget about.
When you know what you're capable of and you've told your network about it, too, an opportunity will come to you at some point where you know your own skills so well that you can easily land yourself a spot at the top of a potential employer's list of candidates.
According to Karen Plenge Johansen, a big part of it is just running out there and into the thick of it. Get into action and do something; Figure out what you're good at, figure out what you want, and tell all that to your network so that they know it, too.
"People who start building and maintaining a professional network early in their careers — while they're still at uni, in other words — are far ahead of the pack when it comes to getting their careers off to a great, rewarding start.
And remember, your network isn't there for you to ask for help finding a job. It's mostly there for you to figure out what you can do with your skills."