5 Winter Break Career Development Tips for College Students

Alas, winter break is around the corner and your plans for the month long hiatus from school are etched in stone: sleep, party, relax, shop, sleep, party, watch TV…. But while you’re planning to catch up on the hundred hours of lost sleep due to the Thirsty Thursday shin-digs and last-minute English papers, there’s an early bird catching a worm that should be yours. In between decompressing from the fall semester, make sure to take this time for a little personal development. Here are five things you can do this winter break to boost your resume and set you apart from the competition.

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Take a class at a community college: While most of your peers may be on the five-year-plan, getting through school in four years can save you time, money and many headaches. If you’re an out-of-state student, cut expenses and catch up (or get ahead) of your graduation requirements by taking classes at a community college. Coordinate with your adviser to see which credits will transfer over to your university and which classes will fulfill core requirement.

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Setup an informational interview: It’s time to dust off those business cards you’ve collected this past semester and start reaching out to your contacts. Take this time to setup informal, informational interviews with prospective employers or leaders in your field that you admire. Don’t be afraid to cold call a few companies to setup in-person meet and greets as well. Expect a few “nos” and fully take advantage of getting to know everyone who says yes. Remember, you’re not looking for a job – at the moment – the goal of an information interview is to learn more about that professional, the industry and the company, as well as put yourself on that person and company’s radar.

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Start an internship/externship: While you may only be out of school for a month and a half, it is still enough time to gain on-the-job experience with an externship or an internship. If need a jumping off point, reach out to professors, mentors and your network and spread the word that your looking to work over the break. Also, read your local newspaper to find out which companies are laying off workers–they’ll be hard pressed to turn down free labor.

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Start a business: One of the greatest – and most irreplaceable – resources is time. Take the time that you would’ve spent going to class, writing papers and studying for exams, to finally get a start on that amazing business idea you have. Figure out which legal structure works best for what you’re trying to do and begin building that business plan or setting up your eCommerce site.

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Go abroad: Spending four months in a foreign country away from family, friends and everything that is familiar to you can be a terrifying throught. For those unwilling to brave a fall or spring semester away from home, a winter study abroad experience can give you a taste of what the world has to offer but for a shorter period of time. If you’re interested in giving back, many schools also offer volunteer abroad experiences as well.

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