Spring break. It's a time when many college seniors head to tropical locales to celebrate their last few months before facing the "real world." But for soon-to-be grads who want to get a step ahead of their fellow students or have fallen behind and need some time to catch up, spring break can be used for more productive purposes.
If you're a college senior, hopefully by the time spring break rolls around, you've already taken steps to prepare yourself for the post-college professional world. This includes visiting your career center, pursuing internships and taking time to think about what you want to do post-college. Make the most of your spring break by strengthening the work you've already done.
Attend career fairs
John Hyde, dean of career services at New York Institute of Technology, suggests taking advantage of activities that often occur during the season. "Spring is career fair season for many universities and colleges," Hyde says. "Students must go to these events having researched companies they want to meet with and make it a point to have a target list to get in line to see. They need to have a seasoned 30-second elevator pitch that they can articulate clearly to a prospective employer at these fairs. They need to look the part, have a good firm handshake and put forward the best résumé they can pull together that provides recruiters they are meeting with a synopsis on why they are the right candidate for the job(s) they are currently recruiting for."
While you should be networking all year long, devote some extra time during spring break to connecting with others, both online and off. Ask family and friends if they know anyone who works in the industry or field you want to pursue. Reach out to them to see if they'd be willing to meet for coffee so you can learn more about the field. Just don't come with the intention of asking for a job. Let the relationship build, and if there are any opportunities in the future, they may be more willing to seek you out.
Also use networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to connect with professional contacts you've made or companies at which you'd be interested in working. This is a good way to get to know a company, keep abreast of what's going on in your field and interact with potential employers.
Arrange informational interviews
Informational interviews are beneficial for a few reasons: They get your foot in the door, they help you determine if the company or career path is the right fit and they show the potential employer that you've taken the initiative to learn more about the company. Since you have an extended period of time during spring break, set up meetings in the location where you'd like to live and work post-college. While it should be treated as a professional trip, don't hold back from having a little fun, too.
"I would suggest that instead of taking that road trip to Miami, students should schedule informational interviews with prospective employers or mentors in their desired city," says Joey V. Price, CEO of managed human-resources services company Jumpstart:HR. "You can always enjoy and get to know the nightlife while on your trip, and the initiative that you've shown will leave a lasting impression on those you reach out to and pursue."
Alfred Poor, speaker and author of "7 Success Secrets That Every College Student Needs to Know!" suggests that college students do some good during spring break while also boosting their résumé.
"If possible, get an assignment that you can complete in the week by working hard, such as putting up a new website or reorganizing their records or writing a series of press releases," Poor says. "Pay close attention to the skills you apply to the tasks -- team building, self-starting, spoken or written communications, information organization -- so that you can include them on your résumé. And get a testimonial letter on the organization letterhead from someone official that praises your contribution. Showing that you gave up your spring break demonstrates a commitment to a good work ethic. Having completed a project that requires specific 'soft career skills' that employers want will make you a much more attractive candidate."
Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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