Students need time during the summer to rest after a difficult academic year. Long days and nights of projects, papers, and tests will wear down everyone at some point and thus recharging one’s batteries is a priority during the summer break. While catching up on sleep is important, the summer should also be used to build one’s career foundation. In this blog installment, the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) offers a handful of tips of how students can make the most of their summer break and be ready to tackle the upcoming academic year.
Be the Rockstar Employee: Students who have a summer experience (work, intern, volunteer, etc.) should strive to set the bar high at their workplace. By not focusing on the minimum but rather looking to excel, students can help their career foundation. The “rockstar” employee is the one who completes projects on-time (or early) and ensures the project is completed at a high level. The “rockstar” asks for feedback and then implements the suggestions in order to improve his/her performance. Finally, after taking care of all assigned projects in a timely fashion and at an superior level, the “rockstar” volunteers or asks for additional projects.
When summer employees do these steps, they are often assigned or pulled into higher level projects. Because of this experience, the “rockstar” leaves the summer experience with a strong reference and much to add to his/her resume. Future interviewers will be impressed when your son or daughter speaks to how they were invited to work on a mission critical project during the summer.
Make the Most of Any Job: Last fall a student came into the CPDC and asked to have her resume reviewed prior to a career fair. During the past summer, the student had worked as a server in a busy restaurant. On her resume and in conversation she described the role not as taking orders, delivering food, processed payments but as working in a time pressed situation, ensuring accuracy, offering recommendations to customers, earning the second-highest tip average among servers, and developing skills such as communication, problem solving, and management. She also shared that she asked her supervisor if she could arrive early and shadow him in order to learn about inventory, ordering, personnel management, marketing and budgeting for the restaurant.
While many students will have summer roles such as sales associates, server, lifeguard, etc. – especially first year and sophomore students – making the most of any opportunity can put a student in a better place for the following summer. This student can speak to more topics from her summer experience than just waiting on tables; she used the summer opportunity to its fullest capacity.
Career Exploration Through Informational Interviewing: If students are honest with themselves, the vast majority will say they do not know what they want to do after graduation. Some students may have an idea or two of possible career fields, so why not encourage them to take the remaining summer months to conduct some exploration through informational interviewing. Research possible career fields online and then reach out to family, friends, neighbors, and Carnegie Mellon alumni and ask for a 15-20 minute phone call. It is always best to talk to a handful of actual professionals in a target field as opposed to only online research.
The CPDC has a resource students can use to help make the prospect of informational interviewing less intimidating. Most professionals are willing to share career information with students and the outreach can help your student return to campus with a more focused idea of possible career paths.
This summer, let your students rest up and recharge their batteries. But also encourage them to make the most of this time by implementing some of the above ideas to help advance their career planning efforts. It could lead to an even better summer in 2015.
****The CPDC staff is available for meetings (phone, Skype, or face-to-face) with students during the summer. Students only need to schedule a meeting through their TartanTrak account and indicate whether they would like a phone, Skype, or face-to-face meeting. To request an advising appointment, students should use the Schedule an Appointment link off of the CPDC homepage.****