It’s that time of the year again: Work Learn applications open August 2, which means a lot of you are gearing up to scroll through CareersOnline in search of the perfect position.
If you didn’t know, Work Learn positions are UBC jobs open only to students. These positions open at 2 different times in the year: August (for the September to April term) and April (for the summer term). Winter positions are mostly 10 hours a week and summer positions are 20 hours a week. Many jobs are on campus, making them very workable around a class schedule. The salary is also decent, averaging around $16 an hour, and the positions tend to be pretty competitive.
If this is your first time applying for a Work Learn position, or if you’ve been unsuccessful in the past, here are a few tips (from someone who’s had a Work Learn job) that will hopefully give you an edge!
Put time into each application
At my last co-op position, I got to look through some Work Learn applications and was surprised by the sheer magnitude of them. Because there were so many applicants, the first round of looking through resumes and cover letters was just weeding out the people who:
- Didn’t follow the instructions in the job description, or
- Didn’t say anything specific about the job (i.e. the application was vague).
From this experience, I would say that the most important thing to focus on is making sure that each application is tailored precisely to the job that it's intended for. A resume can generally stay the same, with some minor changes (e.g. moving sections around if something is more important for one job than another), but the cover letter should essentially be rewritten for each individual job.
To make sure each cover letter fits the job description, use keywords from that description in your letter. If the job calls for someone with database research skills, and the employer receives 50 cover letters, there’s a chance they might skim the cover letters first to find those exact words. At the very least, having those keywords shows that you read the job description and catered your application specifically to that position.
Set aside time for applying
Work Learn applications open at times when you might not be the most motivated to do work (i.e. right around the end of the exam period, and the last few weeks of summer), so it’s important that you’re disciplined when applying for jobs.
Set a reminder on your phone for when applications open (i.e. August and April) and schedule a few hours a day to write cover letters and put together applications.
It’s going to take some time to apply for these jobs, so be patient with the process and keep at it. You can also set a goal for how many applications you want to submit every day, but remember…
Quality > quantity
If you find yourself running out of time, dedicate the remaining days or hours to a few jobs that you feel you would be a good fit for and put time into perfecting those applications.
And even if you’re not sure you would be a great fit for a specific job, read through the job description very carefully and identify the qualities that you already possess. Even if you don’t meet all of the desired qualities listed in the posting, use your cover letter to demonstrate your proficiency in the ones you do possess, and state your willingness to learn and develop other skills.
Because Work Learn positions are jobs for students, they are all intended to teach you something about a field of work—and many employers are just as interested in your professional development as you are. So by showing your desire to learn in your application, you’re telling the employer that you want to gain skills through this job and have the resolve to do so.
Know that even if you’re unsure of your skills, there are ways to frame your experiences to make them relevant to the job. It’s all about having confidence in yourself—although I know that can be hard sometimes. There are jobs out there that will be a good fit for you, even if you’re more on the shy side, or don’t have a lot of work experience. So...
If you don’t hear back from the jobs you apply for this time, or if you do land an interview but it doesn’t work out, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, be proactive by seeking out your peers who were successful in finding a job, and ask them what the process was like for them. They'll most likely have some great advice for you that will help the next time these applications come around.
The Centre for Student Involvement & Careers offers a number of online career resources for job search, interviewing tips, and more. You can also attend career events and workshops or register for a career advising appointment.