Getting a Job on Campus

A new school year is getting underway, and this means many colleges and universities who have recently started up again or will soon are hiring new student employees. Because of fair hiring practices, many colleges are not able to hire anyone until the school year starts in order to allow first-year students an equal shot at getting a job. So what should you keep in mind when applying for one of these jobs?

Your application will be taken more seriously if you take it seriously. For many students, this is their first job ever, and they don't know the ins and outs of putting together a professional cover letter and resume. That's no reason to be sloppy or write a cover letter like it's a school paper. There are plenty of resources out there (like this site!) that can give you tips on cover letters, resumes, and putting together a solid application. Search the Internet for examples, and treat it just like it was your first job application out of college where you were competing with experienced professionals.

Making money shouldn't be your only reason for applying. I'm surprised at how many students say in their cover letter that they're applying for a job because they need to help pay for college. (One student whose application I reviewed even took the time to list out the things he would spend the money on!) It may be true that you need to earn money for college, but that's probably every other student's reason for applying too, and it doesn't tell the hiring manager anything about why you would do well in the job. That's what the space on your cover letter should be devoted to!

You do have experience. College students seem especially prone to emphasizing their weaknesses on a cover letter ("Although I have no real work experience..."). There's a reason you believe you can do this job or you wouldn't be applying for the job — so what is it? Is it because you've excelled in student leadership positions or volunteer work? Even if the only thing you can point to is a strong academic record, point to that! Talk about your punctuality in turning in assignments and your ability to learn new information quickly, or whatever else will show that you understand the skills needed for doing well in the job you're applying for.

Getting a job on campus can be one of the best ways to gain work experience before you graduate and head into a world that expects you to know what you're doing before you apply. The bar for getting hired is a little lower in college — but not so low that you shouldn't try your best. Keep these things in mind when putting together your next on-campus application.