Many continuing grad students like myself need a summer job while staying in Chicago for the summer. Securing work in such a big metropolitan area can be very challenging. I started looking for work the week of finals and after a few weeks of submitting resumes, returning phone calls, and interviewing, I was lucky enough to be hired by The Columbia Chronicle as a graphic designer. Here are some tips for finding a summer job as a grad student at Columbia.
1. Look for on-campus jobs.
Jobs on campus pay relatively well and you can work up to 30 hours per week (up from 20 hours max during the school year). Keep your eyes peeled for new positions and contact them quickly after they are posted. 30 hours a week is just right for the summer. The flexibility you get working for school is unmatched. I have work Monday through Thursday, leaving my Friday free to write commercial music, go to music festivals, and enjoy the summer weather.
2. Make sure your resume and application materials look great and are to the point.
Looking back, I have had a lot of small jobs, from retail sales, web design, tennis coaching, to fast food. When applying to positions, I tailored my resume to fit each job specifically. For the graphic design position, I left out the retail sales and focused on my web design experience. When applying at a movie theater, I left out the design and included the sales position. Also, I think it helps to stay away from a Microsoft Word templates for a resume; be more original and help make your resume stand out by choosing a modern design.
3. Keep in contact with potential employers.
When applying to the on campus jobs I didn’t receive any response for a week or two. This is probably because the employers were trying to finish the semester before looking to hire for the summer. I emailed them back once a week, to make sure they knew I was still interested in the job. Don’t assume they already hired someone if they don’t respond right away. If you email them once a week, chances are they will remember who you are and you might have a better chance at an interview.
Although it might seem like a bizarre job for a Film Music major, working the summer as a graphic designer has its advantages. I can now catch up on soundtrack listening while at work, including Thomas Newman’s full discography. One of my favorite new finds of his is the “Flesh and Bone” score from 1993. It is hard to believe this score is more than 20 years old. The way Newman melded synths, solo players, and orchestra was innovative in the early 90’s and certainly has influenced nearly every composer since. There is nothing like a Thomas Newman string section!
Take a listen here: