College Students

The countdown begins: 19 days, 7 minutes, 6 seconds. That's how much time is left until my winter break begins. Winter break is such a relief for many college students after a semester packed full of studying, organizations, and finals; however, while the break from school is appreciated, I'll be using the extra time to make myself stand out from my peers. Below are seven ways to use winter break to set yourself up for success in the future.


Get a certification.

I’m a marketing major, and Google offers a free certification for Adwords and Analytics, so this one is a no-brainer. For other majors, getting certified in certain types of coding language, CPR, and other skills is very easy, and it can give you a competitive edge.

Job shadow.

Reach out to your parents' connections, professors doing research, or local businesses you are interested in working at after graduation. The job shadow will not only provide you insights on if you are interested in the specific field, but it will give you an edge if you search for an internship or job at the company in the future.

Volunteer.

This is a great way to give back and connect with those who have a similar interest to you. For example, by simply volunteering at a food shelter, you will create deep connections with those that you work with and be able  to use them as a reference, and employers love seeing applicants who give back to others.

Network.

Step up your LinkedIn game and make the most out of the connections you have. Not only should you work on getting new connections, but you should also spend time building up your LinkedIn profile, summary, and endorsements.

Take the time to connect with local professionals in your area with careers that you're interested in or curious about. You can do this by connecting on LinkedIn, or if you can find their email, reach out and tell them about yourself and the questions you have.

Build your portfolio.

As a college student applying for internships and jobs I know that all jobs require a resume, and most require a cover letter, references, letters of recommendations, and other examples of previous work. It can be daunting to see all of those requirements when applying, but once you’ve taken the time to create these documents and save them in a specific location, the application process gets a lot easier.

If your school has the Kuder Career Planning System®, then you have access to the e-Profile, a free tool to build your resume, cover letter, and store references and documents in one place. The e-Profile can be made public and viewable to schools’ admissions personnel or employers, plus it can be shared with a potential or current employer.

If you don’t have access to the KCPS, I would recommend simply creating a desktop shortcut to a folder on your computer dedicated to storing the documents. 

Set goals.

It’s just as important to set goals as it is to accomplish them. By taking the time to set your goals for getting involved in college, determining what you want in a career, and even social life and health will help jumpstart your success by planting the ideas in your mind.

Examples of goals to set would be getting a summer internship, acquiring a leadership position in a campus organization, or finding a steady place to volunteer. Once you set these goals, it becomes much easier to create a manageable timeline and plan on how to accomplish them.

One example of when I set a winter goal was this fall semester. I had made it my mission to make the most of the guest speakers in my event management class by talking to them after class. I knew I needed to connect with them on LinkedIn in order to maintain those connections. Furthermore, I took the time to reach out to a few of them to talk about job shadowing over my winter break, when I knew I would have a lot of free time. The professionals were more than happy to connect and doing so will help keep my name in mind when an internship or job arises in the future. If I hadn’t taken the time to create those connections, I could be missing out on internship and job opportunities when I need them the most!

Get a seasonal job.

Don’t have time for a job during college? Lucky for you, there are many seasonal jobs around the holidays, which happen to fall during winter break. Getting a seasonal job is an easy way to add a job to your resume without having to put in the commitment during the school year. If you aren’t yet looking for an internship, they are also a great way to make that connection for a summer job as well. Seasonal jobs can be what you make of them. They can provide you with access to leadership opportunities, new skills, and introductions to people who could expand your job network.

While I want to enjoy my break stress and responsibility-free, I know that setting aside some time to build my personal brand and network will help me in the future. I urge all other college (and even high school) students to use these tips to make the most of winter break!

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About The Author

Sarah Fields

Sarah Fields was a School-to-Work intern at Kuder from 2014 to 2015. She is now a sophomore at the University of Iowa. Her Kuder assessment results and internship experience affirmed her decision to major in marketing with a certificate in event management. Sarah is a marketin ... read more