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Career Prep

Making Summer Plans — Hints for Your College Student

Tami Campbell

The end of the academic year is coming up fast. Before you know it, your college student will pack up and head home for much needed R&R.

As a parent, I know a break from the stress of school is important. As a campus recruiter, however, one thing that always made an impression on me was the way students chose to spend their time off. While there are lots of options for school breaks, some choices make a stronger impact on future employers than others.

Summer is the perfect time for your student to relax, recharge and reconnect. And, with a little guidance from you, add to their resumé. If your student doesn’t have a plan in place for summer break, here are a few thoughts to share.

Get a job that develops new skills

Your student doesn’t have an internship lined up for the summer? That’s okay — there are still jobs out there that will strengthen their resumé. The key is to find one that will develop critical soft (non-technical) skills. Topping the list of these sought-after skills are:

  • Communication (both verbal and written)
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving

So, if your student has spent the past couple of summers working as a lifeguard at the community pool, now is a good time to try something new. Encourage them to find a position that lets them work on a team, or a job that involves analyzing information and making decisions. The new skills will be a worthy addition to their resumé.

Travel – with purpose

Is your student thinking of traveling this summer? What a delightful way to spend time off! International travel looks good on a resumé, but it’s most impressive when students can talk about what they’ve gained as a result.

I recently met with two students who had international travel listed on their resumés. One enjoyed time at the beach and clubs; the other focused her days studying in Madagascar, learning about conservation, sustainability and environmental policy. While both had exciting summers, the second student came back with new knowledge and experiences to add to her resumé and talk about in interviews.

If your student is longing to explore new territory this summer, go ahead and encourage them. But before they head off, sit down together and talk about what they hope to gain from the experience that will add to their skill set and make them attractive to future employers. With advance planning, they can enjoy the summer as well as make it a valuable learning experience.

Add to accomplishments as a volunteer

Does your student want to donate their time to a worthy cause? Volunteering is a meaningful way to spend a summer break and can add value to a student’s resumé, especially if that student has limited work experience. If your student is considering volunteering during their break, here are a couple ways you can help:

  • Encourage them to find an opportunity related to their field of study and/or career goals.
  • Help them identify a few goals they'd like to reach through the volunteer experience. Do they want to gain a deeper understanding of a particular subject? Are there specific skills they hope to develop?
  • Help them evaluate their options to determine which one(s) will allow them to make the greatest contribution and meet their goals.

Ideally, when your student returns to school in the fall, they'll not only have had a rewarding summer but will also have several new accomplishments they can list on their resumé.

Start a business

Does your student have an idea for a new business? Maybe they should go for it this summer. Whether it’s developing a new app or starting a non-profit, the knowledge, skills and experiences gained during the process of launching a new business can be invaluable. In reviewing resumés, these students always caught my attention. They usually had many of the soft skills I looked for in a new hire: initiative, motivation, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills and organizational skills, to name just a few.

If your student has the drive and determination to bring a new idea to the market, take some time to brainstorm together. Help them find the resources they need, but let them take the lead and do the work. Knowing you have their back may be all they need to turn their vision into a reality.

Tami Campbell is the owner of Level Up Career Services, a firm specializing in working with college students and recent graduates on their job search. With over a decade of experience in career services and campus recruiting, she now puts her background to work guiding students (and parents) through what can be a daunting and overwhelming process.
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