It is important to ask yourself how to make the most out of your summer break while also taking advantage of the warm weather and free time. This is the perfect time to get a head start on any personal or career goals you may have for yourself. We’ve included below a list of the top five ways to make the most of your winter break.
- Update Resume
Summer break is a prime time to update your resume to include experiences, skills, education and activities you’ve acquired over the past year or semester.In an ideal situation we encourage all students to develop what we call a master resume. This style of resume is one that is not given out to anyone and is for your eyes only. It should include, and extensively detail all education (including coursework), experiences (relevant and non-relevant), skills, activities (leadership, volunteer, etc.), and any other academic or career-related involvements (conferences, presentations, publications, etc.).The purpose for developing a master resume is that you will use it to draw from when customizing your resume and cover letter for a particular position and/or organization. And for those interested in government work, a federal style resume will require most of what is on your master resume, thus serving as a time saver.
- Informational Interviewing
Another summer break activity to consider is reaching out to alumni and/or your network connections for informational interviews. One of the best sources for gathering career information about what’s happening in an occupation or an industry is to talk to people working in the field.An informational interview is an interview that you initiate – you ask the questions, much like a journalist. The purpose… well, the purpose is to obtain information that will provide you clarity about your career goals, expand your network, and allow you to learn of potential opportunities in the field. The purpose of informational interview is NOT to get a job.It is time to put the cookies down, reach for the phone or open your email and invite an alum for coffee.
- Invest in a Good Suit
We have all seen it — a person walking down the street or on-campus wearing something that makes us go… hmm. Or, you’ve spent several hours trying to figure out what outfit to wear on a first date. You may not have realized it, but one’s attire is just as important on a date as it is in an interview.How you look and present yourself can have just as much impact an interview as the answers you provide to questions, the firm handshake you deliver, and the thank you letter you send following the interview. Appropriate attire supports your image as someone who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed. Be aware that in some industries, customer contact and image presented to the customer is critical. In such industries, your attire will be judged more critically.So take time this summer break and hit the malls and retail stores for that perfect suit; mom might even help pay.
- Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis:
Complimentary to exploring career options and setting career goals, it is time to develop your career plan: the personal SWOT analysis. While the SWOT analysis is traditionally used by organizations in their strategic planning process, it also serves as an excellent tool for career planning.To get started, you will need to examine your current position. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and how can they help and/or hinder your ability to secure a job or internship?Consider the following:
- Strengths & Weaknesses: What differentiates you from the competition/what personal improvements can you make? Identify your positive and negative VIPS (values, interests, personality, and skills). Inventory your education and experience. Evaluate your drive and ability to network. Understand that these are things you CAN control.
- Opportunities & Threats: What external factors can you take advantage of/what stands in the way of your career goals? Research the industry–are there an abundance of jobs available or are layoffs the norm? Can your network help open doors, or are they your competition going after the same positions? Understand what external attributes will provide advancement versus serve as roadblocks. Know that these are things you CANNOT control.The personal SWOT analysis provides you with a deeper understanding of your brand. It is now up to you to promote and position your brand with potential employers, taking everything you’ve learned into consideration when searching for your dream job, field experience or internship.
- Create or Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Think of your LinkedIn profile as an interactive business card. It’s a summary of your professional experience, interests, and capabilities that is designed to attract the attention of important people who are searching for you online — recruiters, networking contacts, and grad school admissions officers.A strong profile is a key differentiator in the job market. Start with the photo — is yours a professional headshot? If not, take a trip to Target or Walmart and have one taken; like a good suit – a professional headshot photo is an important investment.In addition to your photo, update your tag line (this is the line directly under your name). Think of this tag line as a short description of how you differentiate yourself from others, including those in your field.
Next, update the Experience section of your profile. Because there is no length limitation (different than a resume), we recommend that you detail your specific contributions for each experience and include the skills used, competencies gained and most importantly how you benefited the organization.
This is also a good time to begin asking for recommendations for each of your experiences. These can include supervisors or managers, but could also include co-workers, clients or other stakeholders who can speak on behalf of your work.
Summer is a time for relaxation and fun, but it is also the perfect time to prepare yourself for the job market. Take advantage of these tips and you’ll be ready in no time to kill it at your next interview. Good luck and happy break!