If you are a student, you may feel that during the school year you simply don't have time to even think about your future career, let alone do something about it. Although you may be equally busy in the summer, this is a great time to step back and think about your short-term and long-term career plans.
Start by making a list of some reasonable summer goals. What are some of the key factors that you want to have settled by the end of the summer? Commit your ideas to writing and start prioritizing your needs. At the end of the summer, review and assess your new skills, interests and establish more goals for the upcoming academic year. Here are my 10 tips for what you can do this summer to advance your career:
1. Explore Your Options
Try to progress from feeling "clueless", to narrowing down your options to your top ten, and then preferably to your top three to five choices. Start early and investigate what is required to break into those fields including the educational requirements and starting salaries. Your local library might have a career section of directories and other resources. Will you pursue work or graduate school after college? If you are considering graduate school, gather catalogs of schools that interest you, work on your personal statement/essay, study and register for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT or other appropriate test. Plan some road trips to your top choice schools.
2. Strengthen Your Resume
There is no better time to write your resume than the summer. If you already have a resume, be sure you update it with your new internship or summer job. A strong resume can produce multiple interviews. When you get back to campus in the fall, sit down with a career counselor to have it critiqued and to make sure you are on track.
3. Complete An Internship
Learn as much as you can about your options from doing real world work. Make it meaningful and try to take on as many projects and responsibilities as possible. Employers will expect you to have relevant experience in the form of internships, volunteering, summer or part-time jobs, in addition to strong academic credentials. Plan on finding another internship or volunteer experience for the fall and most certainly for next summer with even more responsibility.
4. Networking, Networking, Networking
Conduct informational interviews and meet people that can help you achieve your goals. Shadow someone in the field for a day or a week to get a taste of the profession. Tap into the networks of your family and friends to develop relationships with professionals and to generate other leads. Listen to what advice they give you on how to prepare for your career and be successful. Since career development is voluntary, take charge and responsibility for the choices and the opportunities available to you. Collect business cards for future reference. Create a Linkedin.com account!!!
5. Buy An Interview Suit
Don't show up to campus in the fall without proper interview attire; get it done during the summer when you have time. For most careers, employers will expect you to dress as a professional.
6. Develop Transferable Skills
Companies can teach you to perform a specific job, and so what they really seek in job candidates are "soft skills." These can be used in almost any career and can include teamwork, problem solving, communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Employers expect that you come to the job with motivation, initiative, ethics, and analytical qualities.
7. Obtain Strong References
When you do your full blown job search, an employer will ask you for references to confirm your abilities. Be relationship oriented with your references since you will need them to make a difference in your candidacy. If you apply to graduate school, they may be essential for being accepted. Get recommendations posted on your LinkedIn.com account.
8. Read 3 Career Development Books
During the downtime of the summer, I recommend that you read at least one relevant career book during each of the months of June, July and August. Your career counselor will show you some books to get you started; I might recommend What Color is Your Parachute?, Do What You Are and Sweaty Palms. Read about various industries, employers, and specific job titles. This type of research will be a real investment.
9. Take A Course
A summer class might help you catch up with credits, stay ahead of your course of study or might help you pull up your GPA. A high GPA is not required for all jobs but it does show your hard work and dedication. Learning a new computer application will also look attractive on your resume.
10. Get Advice
Summer is a great time to connect with your campus career counselor by phone or in-person. Let them know how your summer is going, send them your resume for a critique and set a follow-up meeting for the early fall before you both get too busy. Regular contact will shape your decision-making and help you focus on what you want to do after graduation.