Gain Career Experiences on Your Next Break

Spring break is over, and we’re forced back to reality. While movies portray spring break as endless days at the beach and constant fun, the reality is: most students have to cut that time short. Whether that be to volunteer, work on assignments or spend time with family, the week is not long enough to squeeze everything in.

Or at least, it’s what I was trying to do. I planned to finish all of my classes’ assignments for the rest of the semester, study for my two big exams coming up, make my MCAT study schedule, spend quality time with my loved ones, shadow two physicians and somehow find time to go to the beach. As I write this, I realize how impossible that sounds, but I truly thought that I could do it. But a sickness cut my spring break short from job shadowing. I was really looking forward to gaining the experience, but there’s always more opportunities.

While breaks are usually for resting, they also offer the perfect opportunity for gaining experiences you otherwise couldn’t have during the semester. These can be an internship over the summer, shadowing someone in your field of interest, touring at graduate schools or companies and interviewing people in your field.

It may seem daunting trying to find experiences that make you stand out in a sea of job applications. It’s especially the case if you’re already struggling to come up for air during the semester. But it’s crucial to figuring out what you want to do in life.

The best way to find professionals in your field of interest are to use your network of family and friends. How was I able to schedule shadowing with two different doctors? I asked my close family and friends if they had any connections. If I hadn’t gotten sick, then I would’ve been able to interview physicians in two different specialties and shadow their work, even watching them perform surgery! Never doubt the help you can get from people you already know. You may have to make a trip back home in order to reap the benefits, but it’s worth it to gain exposure and clarity for your future career.

If you don’t know anyone with connections, use your past connections. Maybe you volunteered for a company or hospital in high school, and they are happy to help you gain experience. Or maybe your old teachers have connections they can refer you to.

Even if you haven’t talked to the person in years, it doesn’t hurt to ask. What’s the worst that can happen, they say “no?” If you are very uncomfortable with approaching someone that you haven’t talked to in a while, start with a phone call or email asking how they are and detailing what experience you are seeking. Afterward, it’s a nice gesture to send them a Thank You note.

Another resource is your college’s advising office or the Career Connections Center on campus. As a part of UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, I get emails from my advising office with volunteer, job and internship opportunities. Check out your college’s advising website and use the resources they have posted. If you need more information, make an appointment or visit during their office hours to see if the advisors have any opportunities available for you.

Also, the Gator Times is an excellent resource for scouting out available opportunities. Up-to-date opportunities are sent to your inbox without having to physically scope them out.

The Career Connections Center is also a valuable resource in finding experiences for your future career. They can help you find part-time jobs, summer jobs, internships or pair you with a career coach. They even provide help with resume crafting and can help you connect with the alumni network to find someone who can mentor you.

There are many resources here at UF to help you make steps toward your future career and make yourself a competitive candidate after graduation. Regardless if you use a resource at UF or your friends and family, remember to be kind and courteous to leave a great impression. On the other hand, if you don’t know what you want to do yet, figure out topics that interest you and seek out experiences from there. Who knows, you might just fall in love with something you didn’t expect to!