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How to Make the Most of Your Summer Break, Even in a Pandemic

Joeli Katz

young woman with tablet

We’re well into summer—and if you’re a college student, this is the time to break away from the constraints and responsibilities of the school year. The much-needed break usually gives you the chance to branch out to build your resume, learn new skills, and get your career path on track.

But for many, the coronavirus pandemic has led to cancelled courses, travel plans, and summer jobs. Nevertheless, now is as good a time as ever to consider your options for personal growth, learning, and career development.

Should I return to my hometown job?

If you had a job during high school, going back to work there may seem like a no-brainer—particularly if your university isn't returning to on-campus courses for the fall semester. But is this the best move for you in terms of resume-building?

On the plus side:

  • You’re familiar and comfortable with the responsibilities of the position.
  • The longevity of the position on your resume demonstrates your stability and the strength of your working relationships (plus, your supervisors know you well and can serve as strong references for you in the future).
  • Perhaps you have the opportunity for promotion or to branch out and take on new roles.

But on the minus side:

  • You may be limiting your growth by missing out on the potential for new experiences that may be more in line with your career goals.
  • You might not be adding anything new to your resume.

The value of summer jobs and internships

Summer jobs and internships are the perfect opportunity to add new professional experiences to your resume, without the long-term commitment. A main difference between a regular job and an internship is that an internship focuses on the learning experience for the intern. Many organizations require their interns to be students, and whether paid or unpaid, the intern is expected to meet certain learning goals. The internship may also “pay” you in college credits.

Regardless of whether your summer gig is an internship, you can use the opportunity to learn new skills and build your professional network. Perhaps you meet someone in the field who can serve as a mentor, or you connect professionally with others whose career paths are inspiring to you. Plus, your supervisors may be able to serve as references for you when you apply to jobs after graduation—or better yet, offer you job opportunities if you excel during the summer!

You can start your search for summer jobs and internships, and check out our tips for applying, right here on Idealist.org!

Volunteering

Much like summer jobs and internships, summer volunteering can give you excellent experience to put on your resume and connect you with others who are doing inspiring work. Volunteering with organizations you are interested in can also be a great way to get your foot in the door and figure out whether you might be interested in applying for paid positions in the future.

If your summer plans fell through due to the coronavirus pandemic, virtual volunteer opportunities are a great option to consider. There are plenty of ways to get involved and help your community, even while practicing social distancing. And just because an experience might not be in person, this does not make it any less valuable.

To travel or not to travel?

In addition to the typical work or volunteer experiences that fill up your resume, travelling can be a meaningful and educational experience. Through a summer abroad, you can tour countries you otherwise would not have time to visit, immerse yourself in different cultures, and gain new perspectives. Although you might not list your summer travels on your resume, you can bring your new skills or perspectives with you into your future experiences. Plus, you may even find the opportunity to have meaningful volunteer experiences abroad. Traveling might be out of the question for this summer. However, if you do plan on traveling abroad in the future, this summer might be a great time to work on learning or brushing up on the language, or reading about the history and culture, so when you are able to safely travel, the experience is that much more meaningful!

How about taking a course?

Your school may offer intensive summer courses that can help you knock required classes out of the way or dive into topics you are interested in learning. If you are switching majors or transitioning into a new field of study, summer courses can be especially helpful in getting you up to speed. 

You may be able to complete a course or two in just a few weeks before the next semester starts. So check with your school to find out whether summer sessions are being offered on campus or online. You might also consider brushing up on old knowledge or gaining some new skills through courses on Coursera or other online platforms.

Whichever path you take this summer, reflect on how it is helping your personal and career growth. What skills are you learning? How are you serving your community? What might you be able to take away from the experience? Whether or not the coronavirus pandemic has interfered with your original plans, there are plenty of options to make this summer a meaningful one!

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Joeli Katz

Joeli has professional and volunteer experience spanning the fields of healthcare, education, local government, and the nonprofit sector at large. She is passionate about LGBTQ issues and advocacy. 

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