Tips for finding opportunities to experience chemistry during the summer break

By Kyle Tro

            The summer job: a phrase that, when spoken by their well-meaning parents, causes shudders and cold sweats in even the most stoic of students.  It often marks the end of the era in our childhood when the summers seem to last forever.  Thankfully, this process does not have to be the menace it appears as, and your job might even end up enjoyable.  Here are my best tips for finding and applying for your first summer job.

            Before discussing the actual logistics of finding a job, allow me to help you get in the proper mindset for this.  It can be discouraging getting rejection letters, but you must keep headstrong through the process.  Remember, this is a win-win situation.  If none of the jobs you apply to hire you: that’s great!  You have the summer to yourself, and you have time to learn the new skill you didn’t have time for over the school year, or you can get extra time to spend with friends and family.  Alternatively, if you do get a job, that’s also great news! 

            Firstly, I’ll discuss finding a job for any readers in high school.  The very most important thing to remember is this: your school will be your biggest asset.  If the rest of this blog is too boring, you will at least do well to keep that in mind.  At my school, we had the “College & Career Center” as the place to go for help for anything outside of academics.  Other schools likely have something similar.  Look for this.  The counselors there can help you find job postings, write your resume, and practice for any interviews.  Additionally, they probably have a job board with flyers from local businesses that are looking for students to work over the summer.  This is the best place to look since the employers there are looking for you. 

            If you’re in high school, it will be difficult to get a job or opportunity in more advanced fields (like chemistry), though this of course depends on the field.  That said, there are some opportunities available.  For example, the CIC had a program this summer for high school students interested in chemistry.  Additionally, some colleges might even have beginning research programs for high schoolers.  You can probably find these through the career center mentioned earlier, but if not, try checking the websites of colleges near you to see what is being offered. 

            For college students, the number of opportunities increases dramatically.  Not only are you still eligible for the entry-level type jobs you were working in high school, but now you can also start looking for jobs in your field of interest.  Now, if you never worked a job in high school but would like to find an entry-level job, you might have to look a little harder.  Your best bet will be to keep an eye out for “help wanted” flyers in the businesses you frequent, especially those where the staff is often around your age.  For jobs in your field, the best place to look, again, is your school.  Many of the jobs I applied to for summer internships were found through emails sent by heads of the chemistry department.  Make sure you check your email often.  Additionally, if one of these jobs looks interesting to you, make sure you apply earlier rather than later!  If you wait, the job may get filled quickly. 

            If you know you want to do research specifically, the best way to get started is simple: find out which of your professors have a research group, learn about their research, and then send them an email inquiring about and showing interest in their work.  This works better with professors you have a good relationship with, so it is important to take your time to get to know your professors ahead of time—go to office hours and ask meaningful questions in class.  Even if one of your professors does not do research, having a good relationship is important, as they would be a good person to develop professional connections with and seek advice from. 

            Lastly, online job boards like LinkedIn may also prove useful.  Personally, I was unable to make meaningful contact or applications through these types of sites, but your mileage may vary.  For chemistry, the American Chemical Society has a website that lets you search for job postings specifically in chemistry. 

            Hopefully, these tips will help you find a great summer job.  However, just because you are only looking for one job, do not forget to apply to many.  It can be tiring applying to multiple jobs, but the more you apply to, the more likely you’ll get hired; besides, if multiple companies want to hire you, you get to choose the best option. 

— Kyle Tro is an undergraduate chemistry student at Boston College (BC).

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