Making the Most of Your Winter Break

I saw this interview on an ABC news channel yesterday (ABC Interview) and wanted to share…it includes some strategies for using your winter break to achieve some of your career goals. Some things you could try…

Make contacts with agencies, organizations, or businesses in your area. Ask if they need seasonal employees or volunteers. Some of them may be short-staffed as they try to accommodate employees who are traveling for holidays or those who are parents and need to stay home until their children go back to school. Some may be especially busy this time of year. For example, some social service agencies may see intake increases during holiday or winter months (for example, mental health agencies or organizations that service addicts or families of individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol). Making these contacts and gaining work or volunteer experiences over break could enhance your resume, skills, and professional network. It could also help you with career decisions, including an understanding of your own interests, the types of jobs you like, and positions or roles you would like to pursue in the future. If you get a job that pays, you could pay off debt or save money for opportunities that could enhance your college experience and help you to achieve career-related goals (for examples, paying for a study abroad trip, alternative season break trip, or doing an internship in another city, state, or country).

Job shadow. Getting permission to follow someone as they are “on the job” could help you to learn the advantages and disadvantages of one’s job. It would provide you with the opportunity to observe and ask them what they do and understand what types of stress or demands they face. You would also have the opportunity to get to know that individual better, and they could get to know you….making contacts and networking are vital to your career (career satisfaction, starting pay, and salary over time; see Wolff & Moser, 2009).

Interview professionals in your field. Interviewing professionals in your field could bring you many of the same benefits as job shadowing. Some individuals may be hesitant to let you job shadow or volunteer due to confidentiality and in the interest of protecting their clients. Yet, they may be willing to let you interview them. Many individuals like to talk about themselves and share their stories…and, they would likely view the fact that you asked them favorably. This shows initiative on your part, and that’s a quality that many employers find appealing when they are hiring or interviewing interns. IF they say, “no,” ask someone else in a similar role or ask them if they could provide any other names/contact information for professionals who may be willing to do an interview with you.

Develop your resume. Write a draft, edit it, and ask career services or a mentor to review it. If you need help getting started, see our 15 Fast Tips for Developing Your Resume. It’s always good to be prepared and have your resume ready as you never know when someone will ask for it. Additionally, developing your resume could give you the opportunity to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished and areas that are weak; this could help you as your prioritize your goals for next semester.

These are just a few strategies for making good use of your time in the next month. I hope you all have a wonderful – productive and relaxing – break!


Interview: How College Students Can Spend their Winter Break

Wolff, H. G., & Moser, K. (2009). Effects of networking on career success: a longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 196-206.


About Jill Bowers

Jill is a certified family life educator (CFLE), certified family and consumer scientist (CFCS-HDFS), and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human and Community Development at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She developed the idea for this project when she was working on a research project where she interviewed emerging adults (18-20 year olds). Work and career related content was something about which the emerging adults were most interested in learning more, and many of the issues that were at the center of their daily concerns were those surrounding their career plans and navigating the job market. Although some of the emerging adults in the study were aware of the fact that they could find information on the Internet to answer their questions or that there were resources available through their college or University, most of them could not recall being required to participate in any professional development courses that helped them with career-related skills and most of them suffered from “information overload” related to their Internet searches for information that would help them with their career paths. For example, some of them had been told about the importance of networking (e.g., at Career Fairs), but they did not really understand what this was or how to do it. Therefore, as a result of her experiences working with emerging adults, Jill initiated this project to help FCS students by providing them with information that will help ensure their success as they navigate the job market.

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