What I Did On My Summer Holidays.

Nobody wants to think about summer coming to an end (although, with the weather we’ve had so far this year, you might feel like summer never got started)  However, the weeks tick by faster than we’d like and September will be here all too soon. So, what are you doing with your summer and how can you make the most of the opportunities it offers to fill up your CV and increase your career development skills?

 Working / Volunteering Over Summer

Whether undertaking a summer internship or you found yourself a vacation job, now is the time to maximise the value of that experience. Make a list of what your responsibilities are and identify the skills you’re using or developing in order to perform those duties well. Even if you think that what you’re doing isn’t relevant to the career you want to pursue, any type of work can equip you with excellent transferable skills that are required for most jobs i.e. team-working, problem-solving and communication. You are very likely going to have to demonstrate to a future employer that you have these types of skills. Start compiling your evidence and examples now rather than having to try later to remember everything you did.  When you’re putting your next application together, this will make the process much easier. Think your volunteering / part-time job isn’t giving you ‘proper’ work experience to draw on? Think again. See Jamie’s blog on the value of all types of experience and how they can boost the skills on your CV.

Has your work experience so far given you food-for-thought with regards to your career options? Whether you’re loving or hating what you’re doing, think clearly about the experience. Write down what you feel about that type of work and what are the elements that influence those feelings. Is it the people you work with or the environment you’re in? Are you feeling motivated by the objectives of your job or the skills you get to use?  If you can articulate exactly what you do and don’t like, it can help you identify the jobs you might want to consider in future (or avoid like the plague!). If you’re not sure what types of jobs contain the elements you find attractive in a role, book an appointment to talk to a Careers Consultant and we can help you identify options to explore. If you always thought you knew what you wanted to do but are feeling lost now that your work experience has convinced you otherwise, you’ll probably find a chat about your change of career direction beneficial too.

Think about the contacts you’re making while working including your boss, colleagues or contacts in other organisations.  If appropriate, keep in touch with as many of these people as possible.  Networking is a valuable skill and you never know when an opportunity might come your way because of someone you know.  If you’re doing a good job they might be able to recommend you if they hear of another opportunity opening up. They might welcome you back for more work in the future or provide a glowing reference for your next application.  Use sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to keep them updated on what you’re up to and what opportunities you’re looking for. Remember to keep it professional though, they don’t need to see your tweets about the great party on Saturday night or the accompanying photographs!

Travelling

Employers won’t value time spent travelling, right? Wrong.  It all comes down to how you articulate what you’ve gained from the experience.  If you’re working while travelling, the above advice applies.  Even if you didn’t work and simply soaked up the culture, you’re probably gaining or developing more skills than you realise. First and foremost, language skills.  Languages are valued in a variety of roles. See Prospects for an overview of such roles. It takes self-confidence to pack up and immerse yourself in an unknown country for weeks at a time.  You’re getting experience of meeting and communicating with a variety of people and developing an appreciation of different lifestyles and cultures. Travelling alone means being independent and making friends quickly.  The key is to demonstrate to an employer that you came back from your travels with more than a tan and some great memories.

Do you know what you want to do in Summer 2013 It’s never too early to think about this, honestly

Whether you’ll be graduating or making plans for the next summer vacation, do you know what’s next for you? Maybe getting a job or summer internship, starting a Graduate Scheme or further study? If you know what you want to do, do you know how to get there? Firstly, identify the requirements to get what you want and make sure you can meet them. Maybe you don’t know the exact opportunity you’re going to apply for but start researching now (rather than at the end of the academic year when exams and studying will be your priority)  Get an understanding of what the jobs/schemes/courses in your chosen sector are asking for. You’ve got time now to start filling any gaps in your skills or experience. It’s also vital to find out the application dates and deadlines, especially for Graduate schemes and internships. Do you know some of the Graduate schemes will already be open? Do you appreciate that the opening date can be more important than the closing date? See Sarah’s recent post for more info on Grad schemes.  If further study is your choice, have you looked into the application process, which institutions offer your preferred subjects, funding requirements and what financial support may be available to you?

Whatever you choose to do, I can guarantee you will get asked “Why do you want to do this?”. It is vital you can answer this for two reasons.  Firstly, any employer /institution wants to know your motivation for applying for a job or course. Can you articulate what interests you and why, what you think you’ll get from the opportunity and how it fits into your career aspirations? From the employer’s perspective, if they’re going to invest time and money in developing you, are you going to be committed, keen and motivated to make the most of the role?

The second reason to be able to answer “Why do you want to do this?” is to be sure it’s the right choice for you.  Is a Graduate scheme the best way in to your chosen career sector?  Is Postgraduate study vital for the job you want and, if not vital, does it give you a competitive edge?  Picture yourself at the end of the scheme or course; what will you do now you’ve completed it?  If you don’t know what benefits you’ll get from whatever you plan to do next, is it right for you? If you’re undertaking Postgraduate study just because you don’t know what else to do, or applying for Graduate Schemes because it’s what all your friends are doing, it might not be the most useful next step for you.

No idea yet what Summer 2013 might look like for you? You’re far from being alone, trust me.  At the Careers Service we see plenty of students who are still figuring out what’s next for them and there’s lots we can do to help. Try Career KickStart to help you identify where you’re at now and what are the key areas you can take action in. Come into the Careers Resource Centre to look at the range of resources we have available and have a chat about the ways we can support you.

Well, as I finish writing this, the elusive sun has decided to put in an appearance. The theme of this blog was to encourage you to think about how what you’re doing now can help you in the future. There’s no reason you can’t do that thinking in the park with an ice-cream.

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