You may feel that during the rest of the year you simply don't have time to even think about your future career, let alone do something about it. Although you may be equally busy in the summer, this is a great time to step back and think about your short-term and long-term career plans. Start by making a list of some reasonable summer goals. What are some of the key factors that you want to have settled by the end of the summer? Commit your ideas to writing and start prioritizing your needs. At the end of the summer, review and assess your new skills, interests and establish more goals for the year.
Here are my 10 tips for what you can do this summer to advance your career:
1. Explore Your Options
Try to progress from feeling "clueless" to narrowing down your options to your top ten, and then preferably to your top 3 to 5 choices. Start early and investigate what is required to break into those fields including the educational requirements and starting salaries. Your local library might have a career section of directories and other resources. Will you pursue work or further education?
If you are considering more education, gather catalogs of schools that interest you, work on your personal statement/essay, study and register for the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT or other appropriate test. Plan some road trips to your top choice schools.
2. Strengthen Your Resume
There is no better time to write it than summer. If you already have a resume, be sure you update it with any new experience. A strong resume can produce multiple interviews. Have it critiqued and to make sure you are on track.
3. Volunteer Into A Career
Learn as much as you can about your options from volunteering. Make it meaningful and try to take on as many projects and responsibilities as possible. Any employer will expect you to have relevant experience in the form of work experience, volunteering, part-time jobs, in addition to strong academic credentials.
Conduct informational interviews and meet people that can help you achieve your goals. Shadow someone in the field for a day or a week to get a taste of the profession. Tap into the networks of your family and friends to develop relationships with professionals and to generate other leads. Listen to what advice they give you on how to prepare for your career and be successful. Since career development is voluntary, take charge and responsibility for the choices and the opportunities available to you. Collect business cards for future reference.
5. Buy An Interview Suit
Make sure you have the proper interview attire; get it done during the summer when you have time.
6. Develop Transferable Skills
Most employers can teach you to perform a specific job, and so what they really seek in job candidates are "soft skills." These can be used in almost any career and can include teamwork, problem solving, communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Any organization will also expect that you come to the job with motivation, initiative, positive attitude, ethics, and analytical qualities.
7. Obtain Strong References
When you do your full blown job search, an employer will ask you for references to confirm your abilities. Be relationship oriented with your references since you will need them to make a difference in your candidacy. If you apply to graduate school, they may be essential for being accepted. The Career Services office at your college may allow you to establish a Credentials File for storing your letters.
8. Read Three Career Development Books
During the downtime of the summer, I recommend that you read at least one relevant career book during each of the months of June, July and August. I might recommend What Color is Your Parachute, Do What You Are and Sweaty Palms. Read about various industries, employers, and specific job titles. When you think about how much time you will be spending at work, this type of research will be a real investment.
9. Take A Course
A summer class might help you catch up with credits, stay ahead of your course of study or help you learn a transferable skill. It may also lead to some networking opportunities. Learning a new computer application will also look attractive on your resume.
Contact your "dream team" of advisors and friends and give them an update. Let them know how your summer is going and ask them for three tips to move your career forward. Regular meetings with a professional career counselor in your area will also shape your decision-making and help you focus on what you want to be when you grow up.