College Students: 5 Holiday-Break Activities to Advance Your Career

You're done with your fall semester, and now it's time for holiday break. Three straight weeks of couch lounging and video games sounds great when you're up to your eyeballs in coursework, but it isn't very productive long term. Why not devote some time and energy to one or more of these five low-key activities that will leave you in better career shape come mid-January? Talk Careers with Someone in the Know You're not the only one ramping down. Indeed, "most all industries are slowing down in preparation for the holiday break," says Keith Sharnau, a career advisor at the University of Calgary in Alberta. So it's the perfect time to arrange informational interviews -- brief, informal meetings with those working in jobs, companies or industries of interest. It can be as simple as setting up an appointment with a friend or relative who might enjoy the chance to share insights with you over a cup of coffee, says Jerry Houser, director of the Career Development Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Pick Up Some Short-Term Experience Look into the possibility of job shadowing for a few hours, says career coach Marcia Merrill, president of and a former career counselor at Loyola College. "You can get information on whom to contact by [conducting] Internet research on associations such as the Society for Human Resource Management for human resources or for law firms and legal positions," says Merrill. To take Merrill's strategy a step further, pursue a temporary job or volunteer work. According to Gigi Davis-White, director of education and nursing career services at the University of Virginia, a future educator, for example, could explore substitute teaching opportunities, "since most college students have a bigger holiday break than the K-12 crowd." Surf the Internet for Job Descriptions and Company Information You'll be on the Internet anyway, so you might as well do some targeted career surfing. "I suggest going straight to a company Web site that interests you, then looking at the divisions within the company, then reading the available jobs that are posted," says Helen Reynolds, coordinator of advising and career exploration services at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. You can also research companies on Monster. Some questions to ask yourself along the way:
  • Can I imagine myself in this job?
  • Do I like the associated tasks?
  • Do I have the skills the employer is seeking? If not, how can I get them?
Hit the Bookstore Every major bookstore has a careers section. So take an hour or two to skim the titles there. You'll find more than just job search books. Many companies publish career-exploration books on practically any topic you can think of. Some examples: Careers for Sports Nuts & Other Athletic Types: Learn how your sports addiction could become a career. Roadtrip Nation: An inspiring look at how some new college grads traveled the country in an RV and talked to people about their careers. The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People: Proof that there are indeed jobs for arts majors and other creative types. Look for an Offbeat Resume Booster "Come to Pasadena and glue flowers on a Rose Parade float, find a volunteer project in Mexico for a week, bungee-jump, go spelunking [exploring caves], serve holiday dinners at the homeless shelter -- there are a lot of temporary opportunities for volunteering," says Houser. "If it's a little out of the ordinary, it gets you to visit a new culture or subculture," he says. "That's good for general life experience, and it sometimes provides for interesting discussions in interviews and job receptions. Besides, it's better than staring at the TV for two to three weeks." This post is taken from Five Holiday-Break Activities to Advance Your Career by Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer. Visit to read more tips from Monster’s career experts.
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