Things to Work on This Summer (Besides Your Tan)

As the semester is ending, the only thing on my mind is summer. While I wish I could spend my summer lounging around, the sad reality is that I can’t. This summer I’ll be working part-time, working two on-site internships, as well as blogging for Maybe you don’t want to spend your summer like me, but there’s something everyone can do to be productive during break. The following are my recommendations for ways to have a productive summer break.

enjoying the sun

1. Work. Working allows me to save up money so I don’t have to work as much during the school year. If working part-time is the only thing you’ll be doing this summer, then you’ll still have plenty of time to relax and hang out with your friends.

2. Intern. Internships are the best way to get experience related to your field. Unfortunately, many internships don’t pay, so doing one in the summer can allow you to work without trying to juggle school and work too. But the important thing about internships isn’t the money; it’s getting real experience. Internships are also a great way to gain pieces for your professional portfolio. If you don’t know where to start looking, check out (that’s how I got this position)!

3. Volunteer. There’s nothing more rewarding than doing something good. Countless organizations take volunteers, especially during the summer. Volunteering is a way to do something you’re passionate about outside of school.

4. Study abroad. If there were one thing I wish I could do, it would be to study abroad. While it may be pricey, there are options to take care of the finances. There are numerous national study abroad programs, and your school may have its own study abroad program. Learning or working in a foreign country is a great resume enhancer.

5. Personal improvement. If the above don’t seem like your thing, you at least owe yourself some “me” time after a long semester. Start a new fitness routine, read a book, or take up a new hobby. There are endless ways to spend your summer. You don’t want to waste three months with nothing to show.

There is nothing wrong with relaxing for a few days after finals and enjoying the sun, but it is important to have a plan. The longer you sit around, the harder it will be to get back on schedule.  What are your plans for making this summer the best it can be?

A Quarter Life Crisis: Now What?

Now that you’ve discovered (or are on the path to discovering) your passion, it’s time to make it happen.  This might seem like a daunting task, but try taking things one step at a time.  If it’s something you already know a great deal about, you’re already off to a fantastic start.  However, if you’re anything like me, you might not know much about the field you’ve decided to pursue.  Here a few ideas that will get you headed in the right direction and will send you on the way to becoming a happy (and successful!) professional.

1. Find a mentor.  Finding someone in your desired profession, who can teach you everything he or she knows about that field, is perhaps the most valuable step you can take.  Maybe you have someone in mind you can talk to, or maybe you have to start from scratch like I did.  When I decided that photography was something I was interested in, I simply emailed a wedding photographer and asked whether she might be interested in meeting with me to talk about her profession.  It was scary putting myself out there, but I quickly found that people are very willing to help.

2. Get an internship.  While internships usually mean unpaid work, the experience you’ll gain in the end will make it well worth your time and energy.  This will also give you a chance to “test-run” your possible career.  Maybe you find that you aren’t in fact crazy about it, but at least you won’t make the same mistake twice!

3. Teach yourself.  We live in a world of YouTube and self-help books, so take advantage!  There are so many tools available to us that our parents didn’t necessarily have when they were preparing for their careers.  Start by simply “Googling” your career of choice and you’ll find countless websites, articles, and blogs, where professionals in that particular field share their success secrets and stories.  Head to the nearest bookstore and pick up a book that talks about your potential career in detail.

4. Make connections.  I’ve only been working in the photography industry for a few months now, but already I’m making awesome connections and meeting new people all the time!  Each photographer I meet offers new insights and advice for aspiring photographers like myself.  So don’t be shy! Get your name out there, shake as many hands as you can, and welcome their advice with open arms!

Big Girl Pants: Not Taking On Too Much

Club fairs, internship offers, classes and part-time jobs are all beginning.

It’s easy to sign your name to a bunch of club newsletter lists, but eventually, you’ll have to make some choices as to what you want to follow through on and which you don’t.

I am a perfect example of taking on too much. I always knew I didn’t want to regret not doing something. I played collegiate field hockey, pledged a sorority, worked at the study abroad office, actually studied abroad, lived in a sustainable living facility and kept up with multiple internships and part-time jobs.

Looking back, there is nothing I wish I did, aside from maybe relaxing a bit more.

Half way through your college experience, you might feel as though your responsibilities and commitments are gobbling you up. I am not condoning running from responsibility, but one way I started over was through the National Student Exchange. I realized I had a lot of commitments and I no longer was too happy. I realized as a 20 year old, I didn’t need that much stress.

I made some phone calls and prepared a trip with the National Student Exchange. I figured out that a school 3,000 miles away had the courses I needed and was cheaper for me to go to. I got to relive some study abroad moments (packing for four months in two bags, meeting new people from all over the world, exploring a new area). I am a proud alumna of all of the organizations I was apart of while at my home school back in New Jersey. Now, when I have a few hours in between classes and internship work, I get to explore California with new friends. I scheduled courses into my schedule that make sense to my academic career that I wouldn’t be able to have done otherwise.

If half way through your college years, you feel as though your life is more stressful than you can manage, go over to your school’s study abroad office and check out if they participate in the National Student Exchange.

If you don’t have this as an option or traveling isn’t for you, be honest with yourself and with others about how much you can take on. Exploit your opportunities; go out there and do stuff; but be sure to take some time for yourself too.

Big Girl Pants: Taking School Seriously Without Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Especially once senior year hits, we end up holding more and more responsibility. It is important to take these responsibilities seriously, doing your homework, staying present in class (literally and figuratively) and overall staying on top of your game.

Along with this, networking, interning and applying for jobs are all on the horizon.

It is easy to get wrapped up in all of this work. You know how girls and boys end up having social lives that are all consuming? Remember petty high school drama? I’m sure you do, as it will be around you for the rest of your life, in college and in the workplace. Getting too wrapped up in work is just as bad.

Senior year in college is a crucial time in your life as the decisions you make will shape your future. If you research and apply for jobs and prepare for graduation, you will be in a much different place the day after graduation than someone who doesn’t.

There’s one big factor to remember though. You are young. This will be the only time in your life where going to crazy themed parties is acceptable. This will be the only time you are able to pull and all-nighter and still be a functional member of society the next day. This will be the only time you are able to wake up and wear yoga pants on a day you have work to do.

Savor it.

Remember you need to get work done, but savor and exploit the times you do not.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to take a fun class, save an hour or so right after class to go to the library and get homework done so everything’s out of the way and be sure to get an eight-hour sleep. Eat right. Take care of yourself. Make a time to prepare for after graduation. Make time to go out on adventures with your friends.

It might take some tea, some coffee and a legal drink, but you can get all your bases covered. I promise. If you are determined and persistent and manage your time right, you can do it all.

Senior Status: Networking is Your New Bestie

As a senior, making career connections is more important than ever. That means your social media profiles need to be up to snuff, and you should be taking proactive measures to talk to potential employers and people in the field (aka people who could potentially help you land a job). It’s a lot to think about, so take it a step at a time.

To get started, you should look at your profiles and decide how professional they are. Do your friends write comments about partying, post unflattering pictures or swear all over your Facebook wall? Do all your tweets consist of a play by play of your night, reaching out to friends, or simply focused on stalking your favorite celebrities? It’s time to clean up your act. Making your profile private won’t do much for you. Sometimes employers will have you log in during the interview, or they’ll find some way to find some of your information. The best thing to do is delete and privatize certain things. Maybe make certain friends’ wall posts for your eyes only, so they don’t take your reputation down with them. You can block all pictures you’ve been tagged in so people on your profile can’t see them; however, the pictures are still floating around the Internet and could be found at some point. You should ask whoever posted the images to take them down to be safest. Delete tweets that don’t do anything to boost your professional image. And if you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn, which is considered one of the most important career tools in social media.

Once your act is all cleaned up, it’s time to go on an outreach frenzy. Take some time to think about your field, and who would be important to follow and learn from. For example, if you’re in journalism, you should be following magazines, newspapers, broadcast stations and any news outlet you like. You should also look to follow writers and reporters. Who you follow on Twitter says a lot about you to employers, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do with your account. Try tweeting to them on occasion, with comments or questions. If they’re really popular, they might not get back to you (ever), but it’s worth a try and helps show you’re proactive with your career. Even some re-tweets from non-celebrities will show you take your social media professionally and demonstrate how you’re trying to improve your skills in the field—by looking at the best of the best.

Besides reaching out on Twitter, LinkedIn is key. The easiest way to reach out to people not in your networks and working in a field you desperately want to get into is searching for alums. Though you haven’t graduated yet, you can join your college’s alumni group on LinkedIn and from there, life will be so much easier. You can search the group for companies, location, and even similar interests to learn about the job market in a certain area, what a company looks for when hiring, or what working like the field is like in general. People like to help others, and if they’re passionate for their school, they’ll definitely be willing to help a new graduate. Just remember to be polite, not be pushy, and never straight up ask for a job. Seek advice and tips instead, which will serve you better in the long run.

In other words, social media isn’t just for fun anymore. That doesn’t mean you can’t put up fun statuses for your friends’ birthdays or ever post any pictures from a party (though try to avoid the drinking pics if they exist), but you should be more conscious of what you post. You should focus on connecting with people who make a difference in your field and show you’re paying attention to what’s new. Look for roles models so your own Twitter can one day serve as a strong model for new young professionals entering the field. Now’s the time to really focus on yourself and the future, so why not put in the extra effort to look like the prime candidate for a job offer?

Best of luck and happy (professional) tweeting!