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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Turn summer job into full-time work

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Landing a summer job is an important stepping stone for many college and university graduates eager to put valuable work experience on their resume and some cash in their pockets. And while your potential may get you in the door, attitude can help keep you there.
Rick Leach says it was hard work and a good attitude that helped him turn a short contract position as a fire prevention inspector at the Fort Erie Fire Department into a full-time job.

College graduate Rick Leach credits that winning combination with helping him turn a short-term contract as a fire prevention inspector with the Fort Erie Fire Department into a full-time job.

"I was hoping to make enough contacts in the field to help me find something once the contract was over," Leach says. He completed the fire prevention and engineering technology program at Seneca College in April 2002.

"I took the initiative to take on extra projects and helped out wherever I could," says Leach, 30. "You don't want to be overbearing, but it is important to be confident and outgoing. I got involved in extra-curricular activities ... and interacted with people from various departments."

When a full-time fire prevention inspector position was created a few months later, Leach had impressed his supervisors enough to earn the job.

"I think they were happy with what I was doing and saw that I wanted to work hard," says Leach.

For many employers, hiring for the short term allows them to determine someone's potential before making a commitment. At the same time, it gives employees the chance to prove they have the skills and work ethic that landed them the job.

"It's an opportunity to put your best foot forward," says Tara Blackburn, director of the Career & Employment Centre at Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

Having the right attitude is crucial to your success, she says. "You can have all the hard skills required, but if you don't have the right attitude, you won't succeed. After all, an employer can teach you anything.

"You don't want to be a know-it-all and don't want an 'I can't be bothered' attitude," Blackburn says. "You need to have a level of confidence, a positive attitude and be able to get along well with the team."

Strive to do your best. "You want to do a great job, not just a good job," says Barbara Collins, vice-president at Drake Beam Morin in Toronto, which specializes in human resource solutions.

Do your homework. "Learn as much as possible about the business and the industry," Collins says. "Visit the company Web site, read company newsletters and industry periodicals."

Use your skills as a student. "Be a keener. Ask for additional assignments once you've completed the ones you've been given," Collins says. "Be proactive and keep track of what you've done and send a note to your supervisor every once in a while...It keeps you in front of them and will ensure you're prepared for a job review."

Treat the position as a full-time job, advises Charlene Taylor, career services co-ordinator at Seneca College. "Many of the things you can do to improve your chances of getting a permanent position are related to general success on the job: be punctual, get along with people, stay out of gossip, don't get too personal and dress appropriately."

Get to know the company culture and decide if it's where you'd like to establish your career.

"If it's a place you'd like to work, you need to make your intentions known," Taylor says. "Tell your supervisor that you like the company and ask about opportunities.

"Look at positions posted on the company's Web site and learn more about what qualifications are needed...At the very least, you want to build up transferable skills and have someone you can list as a reference. Remember, as a new graduate, people want to help you and want to see you succeed."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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