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6 Ways to Use Summer to Advance Your Career Path

You’ve finished all of your final exams and projects. All of your hard work this semester has taken its toll, and now it’s time for a much deserved break. Summer break is upon us and images of sitting on the beach, catching up with friends and soaking up the sun all come to mind. But what about gaining experiences that further your potential to become more marketable to employers?

This summer, try finding the perfect balance of learning more about your field of study and getting work experience, while also enjoying your downtime. Let go of the stress from the academic year for the next couple of months and do what will benefit and advance your career path. 

It is important to take advantage of the summer to further your career because you will learn about your field or industry, gain valuable work experience, develop and build your skills, gain valuable networking contacts and obtain references for future job opportunities. 

Here are six ways take advantage of this summer to advance your career:

Learn a new skill to add to your resume

By learning a new skill you can impress future employers. Search for industry-wide programs commonly used in your field of study, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro or even a programming language, depending on what career you want to pursue.

Get an internship

If you’re going into your junior or senior year of college or pursuing a master’s degree, it could be a good time to find an internship to further your experience and knowledge of your industry. With a summer internship, you’ll gain insight into your field of study and also strengthen your resume. Still undecided about your career path? An internship is a great way to help you explore different career options before you dive into the job market.

Find a summer job

If you’re not interning this summer or just want to make some extra cash, finding work experience can build your resume with other valuable skills, like customer service and leadership opportunities, which can still impress future employers. If you’re back home, call up your old boss from your part-time job in high school or search your town for businesses trying to fill a summer position. Whether you’re working as a lifeguard or in food service, employers want to see that you have experience in a work environment.

Network

Summer break provides a prime opportunity to build out your professional network. That means taking time to meet people and learn about their work while you complete internships or part-time jobs. Your professional network will support you throughout your career — the sooner you start building it, the better. Here’s how to take advantage of summer networking opportunities:

— Join a professional association group including the Society of Professional Journalists, American Marketing Association and Public Relations Student Society of America

— Attend a professional development conference

— Job Shadow for an industry professional

— Do an informational interview 

Take some time to research professional associations in your area and attend a meeting or two this summer. This is a great way to gain industry contacts and learn more about the profession. 

The core of networking is about building long term relationships and building your reputation while you are having fun, meeting new people and connecting with those you already know. Great business networking events can make you feel like you just spent time with your favorite friends and it will have you looking forward to your next event. 

Attending conferences and networking events force you to break out of your comfort zone. If your goal is to gain contacts in your industry, then attending an industry-related event could be a great opportunity to meet people that might have experience with your dream job.

Read more professional development books

Use some of that extra time this summer. With no required readings for class, it’s a good time to read books related to your field. Try a Google search of “best books for a career in … ” and see what shows up. If you don’t have any funds to purchase the books, take advantage of your community library.

Do a passion project in your field of study

If you don’t have a summer internship or a part-time job, you can do a passion project or side project outside of the classroom. It’s easy to spend all your time with your family and friends during your spare time, but starting a passion project can be a great addition to your resume. You could even do a group project with people outside of your normal circle, such as classmates or people outside of school entirely to meet others going into your field. 

There are many reasons you should do a passion project: 

— It will make your life more fulfilling and meaningful.

— You will find like-minded people to share your passion with.

— You will learn more about yourself and what inspires you.

— You could make money if the project leads to career opportunities.

— You could find your life’s purpose.

Passion project ideas include:

— Starting a blog

— Starting a YouTube channel

— Starting a newsletter

— Engaging in a letter writing campaign

— Starting a charity or volunteering with one

— Leading a workout class

You can enjoy your summer while still pushing your career forward. Remember, consistency is key in career growth!

Skylar Petrik

Maryland '22

I am a junior at University of Maryland. In my free time, I love to cook, explore new places, read bestseller books, workout, and spend time with family.
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