Winter break is a unique opportunity for students. Essentially, no other time in their lives will they have a full month off from work. While it’s important for students to re-charge their internal batteries during this break, the entire time shouldn’t be spent Netflix-binging.
There are some incredibly easy, yet important things students can do to help push their careers forward while enjoying winter break. You can share and use the following 11 tips to inspire your students to make the most of their time off, and position them for new opportunities by the time they return to class.
1. Send Thank You Notes
Handwritten notes may seem extinct these days. But, when receiving one can turn a day from ordinary to extraordinary. Even if students don’t have time to write them by hand, sending “thank you” emails helps reconnect with past contacts and individuals. For example, students can email their professors from last year, past managers at summer jobs, any family friends in relevant industries, and contacts they’ve made at events on or around campus.
It’s important for students to tell these individuals that they genuinely appreciate their time and help. Students that do this once every six months have a much better chance of professionals recognizing and remembering their name in the future.
2. Update Their LinkedIn Profile
It can be difficult for students to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile, especially now that profiles can include sections beyond work experiences, such as honors and awards, volunteer experiences, languages, test scores, courses, certifications, recommendations, skills, projects, and even blog posts. Students should spend a morning or afternoon during break to update their profile with any relevant experiences, projects, and accolades not currently listed. Students might also benefit from adding more connections, such as classmates, professors, former colleagues, family friends, and anyone else they’ve worked with or personally know in their life.
3. Create A Website, Blog, or Portfolio
It’s now quite easy for students to display their work, skills, projects, and experiences online in more creative ways than just a LinkedIn profile. Both free and paid versions of website builders and blogs allow students to show off their work, which often plays a factor when interviewing for a job or internship. Services such as Squarespace, Wix, Strikingly, Medium, and even Tumblr are great places to recommend to students, depending on their focus and expertise.
4. Shadow Someone for a Day
Businesses and organizations around your city typically have a week or so off for the holidays, but certainly not as long as students. Students can shadow a professional in order to get an inside look at a company’s culture, the type of work they do, the office environment, and also make a few connections throughout the day. You might have alumni that are willing and interested in having students shadow them for a day, and this will help students better understand the type of company they like, and possibly don’t like—which is equally as important!
5. Develop a New Skill
There are plenty of websites and digital courses to learn new skills, both hard skills (like coding, Excel, graphic design, animation, etc) and soft skills (interviewing, marketing, writing, negotiating, etc). Some of the best websites that offer a wide variety of (mostly free) classes, tutorials, and programs are: Skillshare, Udemy, Khan Academy, CodeCademy, Lifehacker, Coursera, edX, Open Culture, Udacity, and many Ivy League universities (Academic Earth). Some courses can be completed in one day, while others can span several weeks or months. Students can find a ton of value from learning outside the classroom, especially during winter break.
6. Get Business Cards
Business cards offer students the option and flexibility of exchanging contact information for the times when they least expect it. You never know when you’ll meet someone that might be hiring, know someone that’s hiring, is willing to have students shadow him or her, or just might be a strong contact to have. Business cards remove any awkwardness of exchanging information in these situations, and websites such as MOO.com, VistaPrint, Overnight Prints, Zazzle, and even Staples offer affordable options.
7. Practice Interviewing
Interviewing is a bit like speaking a different language. You must practice a little bit each month to keep you on top of your game. For this reason, students should spend a morning or afternoon honing in on their interviewing skills. They can search for and read articles about best practices and tips, or even complete an interview simulation through “My Interview Simulator” online.
8. Network In-Person or Online
Networking is an essential ingredient for everyone’s professional development and careers, especially for students. Two of the best ways students can network in-person are events in their city, and informational interviews. Students can search on Google, Twitter, and Meetup.com for nearby networking events. Students can also ask individuals that they already know, or recently met, to grab coffee for an informational interview, which allows them to ask questions, gain insight into their career, and better understand the company they work for.
Networking is also possible online, and Twitter is one of the best ways for this. There are Twitter Chats for just about any topic, and these online conversations have a dedicated time, day, and hashtag for people to connect with each other, answer questions, and network virtually.
9. Start Searching for Jobs or Internships
For students seeking an internship or full-time job when classes resume, it’s important to spend some time searching online for openings and opportunities. Students searching for internships and full-time careers online can easily become discouraged with the surplus of resources and opportunities. Students often feel like they’re wandering aimlessly online, and submitting their résumé into a black hole.
This was one of the more significant problems we recognized when just starting out. Many online career searches result in listings that are unrelated, seem like spam, or don’t provide nearly enough information. If students or recent graduates are looking for new opportunities, they may want to visit the “Job Seekers” section on Better Weekdays, which delivers individually curated lists of relevant job matches. Students can flip through jobs by choosing “Me” or “Not Me” on any mobile device to take their career development wherever they go.
10. Edit Their Résumé
Students should consistently update their résumé throughout the year, but in case students were too busy with final exams and project deadlines before the break, it’s possible there are experiences, projects, and skills that are missing—but should be added. Some of the most important elements that students should update on their résumé include the skills gained from previous work experiences, completed classes, GPA, and any hard skills, such as coding, Excel, graphic design, etc. Updating their résumé during the break is one less thing to worry about once classes resume.
Writing is a skill and practice relevant, useful, and important to just about any and all jobs. From writing succinct emails to full business reports, students must be able to write confidently and effectively for the industry they’re eager to join as an intern, or full-time professional down the road. Students can practice by writing blog posts, abbreviated business plans, articles about a specific topic, or even sample cover letters. The more writing and practice students get during break, the better they’ll be prepared for coursework and internships later in the year.
Students that take advantage of their free time during winter break will not only advance their careers one step at a time, but they’ll also have more flexibility when they return to campus. It’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed when a new semester begins filled with coursework, extracurriculars, social life, and finding an internship. Crossing off these items before the semester begins allows students to kick off the spring semester with several accomplishments already under their belt.