Winter break may be a time for college students to unwind and prepare for the semester ahead. But smart students will utilize this spare time to give them a head-start, or even catch up to the pack in certain industries, on their internship or job search. If you want to win your winter break, see our 5 key steps to take below:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Take care of these basic job-search to-dos between exams and next semester, to hit the ground running:
- Create an all-star LinkedIn profile – remember, it’s easier to amass college connections while you’re still in college
- Update your resume – make it key word rich relating to jobs or internships you want, and be sure to list your accomplishments
- Create a calendar for employment – when do companies hire in the industry you want? Use this time to plan ahead, and ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.
- Make business cards – business cards are great for personal branding, especially for those in creative or marketing fields. Use a site like Vistaprint.com or Moo.com to print professional business cards without spending a fortune.
FIND A JOB, INTERNSHIP, OR VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY
A part-time job during the holiday season can display commitment and work ethic, and help you earn a little pocket cash, too. And don’t scoff at the value any job provides – working holiday retail is no small feat, and experience is what you want to accumulate.
- ‘Tis the Season for Work – retailers, event-planners, and customer service centers all need a little help during the holiday season. These are great places to look for first jobs or internships over winter break
- Shadow a pro – try to convince a family friend or college alum to allow you to shadow them for a week. You can see what the job entails, and hopefully make some longer term professional connections
- Volunteer – there might be industry events in your field that you can assist at, and many non-profits oftentimes need extra help around the holidays. Volunteer opportunities are a great way to build your network – and by volunteering now, you can make it easier to stay involved after college, which can also help strengthen future networking and grad-school applications.
TAKE A CLASS
Taking a class during winter break is a great way to formally address your skill gaps, transforming weaknesses into strengths. Just be sure the classes you choose are specifically targeted to improve those skills that employers require in your area(s) of interest.
- Explore a January Semester – some colleges like NYU offer dedicated January semesters where students take one class that can be more career-oriented than those offered during other semesters. Look for opportunities that are commutable from your hometown
- Stay Local – local community colleges might also offer options for interesting and relatable coursework
- Learn Online – formal online courses through accredited universities are a great way to take a class over break while staying flexible. You can also explore sites like Lynda.com or Khan Academy to improve skills in areas like Excel, coding, social media usage, and other software
- Earn accreditation – seek out those programs that give formal certifications; certifications in Microsoft Office Suite or Social Media can provide an additional level of credentials to employers looking to hire.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
The right contact can help launch your career. The weeks you spend at home between semesters are a great time to build your network beyond your university’s halls.
- Organize your contacts – identify young alumni, family friends, and any others who you might be able to meet with during your time at home
- Lead the way – if you ask for a meeting, you’re in charge of leading it. Make sure you come in with a direction and specific questions you have, and how this person might be able to offer assistance – a meeting is a courtesy, don’t waste their time (and if you asked for the meeting, you should pick up the coffee)
- Attend industry events – if there are any industry-specific events you can attend while in town, these are a great way to meet people and learn about career entry points. Volunteering in particular is a great way to get in the door
- Socialize – pretty soon the friends you grew up with will be working professionals themselves, and will make up a core part of your network. Make it a priority to maintain friendships and connections – you never know where you’re all going to end up.
START YOUR SEARCH
- Assess your sources – scan your school’s career services network, reach out to professors about research opportunities and inquire if they have industry contacts; set up alerts on relevant job boards
- Do a Career Assessment – not sure what direction to take? With more than 800 careers to choose from, a career assessment can help you identify right-fit career options. You can start taking the steps needed to realistically work towards that goal
Freelance and short-term projects – some companies may want help on short, finite projects during this period; by freelancing, interning, or doing contracted work on a short-term basis, you offer a great way for them to test you out.