Whether you’re busy working at your summer job/internship or stuck at home, chances are you’ve got some free time this summer. Instead of more mindless Facebook trolling or watching yet another Jersey Shore marathon, think about your career once in a while. Don’t know where to start? Why not work on that pesky “skill” section of your resume? We’ve got all the fun ways for you to boost your resume and let your skill set shine.
Decide What to Work On
First you’ve got to decide what skill you want to learn. Head to Monster.com and look for jobs or internships that you might apply for next year. What kinds of skills or software do they require?
If you are employed, also ask your employer what kind of related expertise is helpful for a person in your industry. Emailing your career counselor back at school may also give you a good idea of what to do. Finally, talk to your friends and professors in your field to see what they recommend. Now compile a list of all the skills and tackle one at a time.
Speak Another Language
Since it is too late to study abroad this summer, try the next best thing and perfect your language skills closer to home. Head to the local library and check out a book written in the language you’ve studied. You’ll be able practice your reading and comprehension skills. If you love fashion and foreign language, pick up the latest foreign edition of Vogue at a bookstore and it won’t even feel like work. Got a long daily commute? Download free podcasts from the iTunes store and you’ll improve your listening skills. Here’s a Spanish podcast, a French podcast and an Italian podcast.
Ask For More Responsibility
If you’ve got a summer job, try to get the most out of the opportunity. Whether you are working in a law firm or a clothing store, once you’ve mastered everything you’ve been given you can always ask for more tasks. East Carolina University rising sophomore Jillian Stringer is searching for a summer retail job that will allow her to gain customer service and communication skills for her resume. “I know I’ll probably start out folding clothes and helping customers. Hopefully I can impress my manager and I’ll be rewarded with more responsibility such as working the cash register or selling credit cards,” says Stringer. Not only could more responsibility lead to more skills on your resume but it will also show your supervisor that you are self-motivated.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities
Josalyn Williams noticed that nonprofit jobs and employers required grassroots activism experience. So Williams, a 2010 UMass Amherst graduate, decided she would volunteer this summer with the Massachusetts Democrats. “Experience in grassroots activities was the one skill that kept coming up during job interviews. I searched for a volunteer opportunity that would both boost my resume and allow me to have the vital experience,” says Williams. Depending on your interests, you could always see if your local hospital, animal shelter, library, nursing home or summer school needs any help. Most volunteer jobs are part-time so you can fit a few hours in a week if you have a busy summer planned.
Take a Class
You don’t have to enroll in summer school to learn something new. If you’re interested in marketing, journalism or publishing, try Lynda or mediabistro where you can learn freelancing tips, how to market your blog and important software all from the comfort of your own room. If you need to master Microsoft Excel, go online for free tutorials. You could also check if your local community center has typing, etiquette or any other interesting classes that would help you advance.
Shadow a Different Department
If you are working for a large company, chances are there are a few different departments. Ask your boss if you can spend a day working with a different department and you may pick up a skill or two. If you volunteer with the neonatal unit in a hospital, work in the surgery unit for a day. Head to the editorial side of a publication if you work in advertising. You may decide you like your current position better, but if nothing else, it will give you another perspective in your field and could inspire you to become more well-rounded.
Now that you have more time, you should try to meet people in your field, says Jacquelyn Gist, an assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill. Gist says it is smart to arrange informational interviews or a day to shadow someone in your field. Start by calling up anyone you have networked with or whose job you admire. People are usually flattered by your request and if they have the time, you’ll see firsthand what it is like to work at XYZ company. You could also try signing up for nearby networking nights or professional conferences. I followed Gist’s networking advice and signed up for a journalism conference at the National Press Club. During the conference, I got to meet experienced journalists and heard from panelists about what skills were crucial to my career field.
Brush Up on Current Events or Your Field
You don’t have to read the New York Times cover to cover every day but make sure you know what is going on in the world. A potential employer may make small talk before an interview or your boss could ask you what you think about a recent development in your field. Sign up for daily newsletters in your subject and breaking news alerts to stay well-informed this summer. Your local library is another great place to increase your knowledge about your field. If you’re a history major, check out a few historical biographies and if you are interested in politics, there are probably recent copies of Newsweek and Time to borrow. Make it a habit to read this summer since you don’t have any assigned books for class.
Jillian Stringer, East Carolina University 2013
Josalyn Williams, UMass Amherst 2010 graduate
Jacquelyn Gist, assistant director at University Career Services, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill