It’s that sluggish time of year. Finals are over, your lack of sleep in the last two weeks has caught up with you, and you’re back at home tuckered out and ready to hibernate for the winter. The cocoon of holiday cookies, sweats and TV reruns has begun.
Stop right there. I don’t mean to get all Grinchy on you, but winter break can be more than just an escape from your future—it can be the key to your competitive advantage. Here are five holiday activities that will help you build career momentum, instead of falling behind the pack.
1. All I Want for Christmas is You—Get that Internship!
Start compiling a list of places you’d like to work or intern, and try to find any contact you might have there. Determine your dream job or internship, and plan out specific steps to getting it. Have questions about a company? Arrange an informational interview with an employee!
You’ll gain crucial insights about the organization and make a professional connection with a well-rehearsed and informed interview. Then you’re ready to kick back with a mug of eggnog and get those applications done before the spring semester madness starts.
2. Baby, It’s Cold Outside, So Study Up!
Learn a new skill—like how to use Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Microsoft Excel or even basic HTML—in lieu of the nice weather. These are tools that can be self-taught, and the 30-day free trials make it easy for you to learn over the break while you’re not on campus.
Not a fan of digital? Read a book from your field! The more you absorb material in your own industry, the more qualified you become as a professional. When it’s time to discuss the substance with professors and professionals, you’ll shine. If you’re in marketing and public relations like me, a couple recommendations are “UnMarketing” by Scott Stratten, “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin’s “Linchpin.”
So let it snow! You’ll be a better candidate after it all melts.
3. Sleigh Ride to Your Local Charity!
There are countless opportunities for volunteerism during the holidays. This can be a great element to any resume, and can help distinguish one candidate from another. Google your local food banks, homeless shelters, animal shelters, local businesses with time-intensive holiday projects, or anything else that you’re passionate about! We starving college students may not have the money to donate, but over winter break, we certainly have the time.
4. Shine up those Silver Bells!
Winter break is the perfect opportunity to get your personal branding in shape—you have time to reflect on the past year, and you’re ready to make those resolutions. Now it’s time to polish up your message so you can ring in the New Year!
Make sure that your resume is flawless, up-to-date, and styled for your personal brand. Remember that this is your document—your ambassador to employers that helps to distinguish other candidates from you. Next step: purge your Facebook of all the embarrassing Halloween photos from this semester, and any others you wouldn’t want the HR personnel at your dream-company to see. Create your own personal webpage or blog, tidy up that LinkedIn account (and even ask for a few recommendations), and get engaged with professionals in your field on Twitter. Represent yourself well—you are your own most important client.
5. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree: Network, Network, Network!
Let’s be real—it is really hard to network during the semester. You have twelve projects due next week, you have to learn a whole semester’s worth of finance by next Tuesday, and you’re already busy dealing with unnecessary roommate drama. The beauty of winter break is that you don’t have to worry about ANY of that.
Find local conferences pertinent to your field, and sign up. Use your newly minted social media savvy and connect with these professionals online. Make some calls and send some emails, and nab those informational interviews. The more “Brand [You]” gains exposure to your professional community, the more these gifts to yourself will keep giving and giving.
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