Career-Focused Winter Break Tips for College Students
The fall semester is almost over and your winter break is right around the corner. You are on the home stretch! Many students are starting to make plans for their time at home or on vacation. Most likely you are looking forward to family, friends, movies, video games and chilling. But, your holiday break can be a great opportunity to start thinking about your future career – whether you are a freshman or a senior.
Every moment during your college experience is important and can impact your future career direction, even during school breaks. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in the future, use your time off during the Holiday break to get experience, learn about careers, and understand what environment energizes you the most. This might seem like a big “ask” - but you CAN do it. These activities do not have to be stressful. Any free time is a good time to explore who YOU are and what YOU want to do in the future.
Here are eight low-key activities that will leave you in a better career shape come mid-January, when you go back to school. Some of these activities you can do while you are on vacation!
1. Talk about careers with family and friends.
Reach out to family, friends or past employers, in person or via e-mail, and ask them what they do at their jobs. Many careers and jobs are not exactly what you see on Netflix or in the movies. One of the most important things you can do is to talk to people and find out what their job is really like. Ask them how they got started, if they have any advice for you and how you can find out more about that career.
2. Find a short-term work or internship experience.
Reach out to local businesses to see if you can shadow someone on the job for a day. Observing someone doing their work is helpful for exploring your career preferences. Short-Term internships are a great way to jumpstart to a career, get a taste of professional work and make long lasting connections. Learn about internships by reaching out to career centers now. Some colleges might offer credits for internships completed over the winter break. Gaining ANY work experience will be beneficial for your future!
3. Get involved with your community.
Winter break is a great opportunity for you to do some volunteer work. This is the time of year to be engaged with your community and give back. Volunteering can improve your resume and help to make you stand out to employers because you care about the community and invest your time to give back. Volunteering is work experience for your resume.
4. Surf the internet for job descriptions, resources and companies.
Check out the website: https://www.onetonline.org/ . Look up any career you might be curious about and read about the job tasks, experience needed, work environment, salary potential and education needed. For future reference keep detailed notes of all the information you find by career. Another good website is www.mynextmove.org where you can explore what you might want to do for a living. So much of your success depends upon good research and careful planning. Your holiday break is also a great time to work with a career coach on your interests, skills, aptitudes, values and work preferences.
5. Spend time at the bookstore’s career section.
Every major bookstore has a large career section. Take an hour or two to skim the titles and browse books there. You will most likely find more than just job search books, but books on careers, interviewing techniques, resumes and a variety of different businesses strategies. Many companies publish career-exploration books on practically any topic you can think of.
6. Set aside a few hours per day to improve and advance your digital footprint.
Take time to clean up all of your social media sites. Delete any posts or photos that a future employer might deem inappropriate. Keep in mind that future colleges and employers ARE looking at your social media interactions. Spend time updating your LinkedIn Profile with a recent “professional-looking” photo, current contact information and a detailed bio (use your resume format).
7. Use time to complete tasks and improve skills.
When you are busy at school, some small details can get pushed aside. Use your holiday break to do the tasks that you never had time for during the hustle and bustle of the semester. Revise and update your resume, mark upcoming career fairs in your planner, invest in a new interview outfit and/or teach yourself a new business platform (Slack, Excel, Evernote or OneNote)
Pay attention to your lifestyle: healthy eating, exercise, sleeping and engaging in fun hobbies or reading. Get together with friends and family and try to have “tech free meals” and encourage everyone at the table put their smartphones away to talk to each other. Practice eye-to-eye conversations as much as you can. Use your free time to practice a meditation, relaxation techniques and mindfulness.
Take some time to read this list over and think of things that YOU can do during the winter break. Create a binder or notebook to keep track of the activities you accomplish. Write down dates, addresses and names and phone numbers of supervisors. Ask for a recommendation letter after you complete the job. Save it in your files for the future!
I have created a checklist that you can download and print to help you remember these tips. Please let me know via e-mail or social media what you did and how it was! I love hearing your stories!