It can be challenging for college students to find the time to search for jobs, summer jobs, or internships during the semester. After all, students are busy with academics, athletics, co-curricular activities, volunteer work, internships, and a campus social life.
Winter break can be an ideal time to ramp up your job search. Since you aren’t taking classes during this time, you’ll have the opportunity to take steps to land a good summer or post-grad job.
What can students (often with the help of families) do to capitalize on this window of opportunity? Here are tips for how best to job search during the semester break.
How to Use the Semester Break for Job Hunting
Target Locations Where You Would Like to Work
It can be fun to think about where you'd like to spend your summer or start your career. Once you have a location of interest, search for job openings in that location and apply to as many opportunities as possible.
If the location is far from your school, let employers know that you are available during break for an interview or even an informal meeting (if they are not yet conducting formal interviews). This strategy will be particularly important if you will be abroad during the semester and not available to meet with employers during that time.
Find Companies You'd Like to Work For
Since many jobs will not yet be advertised, it is equally important to identify employers in fields of interest even if you haven't seen any job advertisements from them. You can use local chambers of commerce and employer directories as well as a variety of other resources to research companies in your field.
Connect With Employers
Traveling to check out new locations can be exciting. Think about family and friends in those areas who might allow you to stay with them for a couple of days while you conduct your meetings.
Research Target Careers
Take the time to read about careers in resources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook and speak to alumni so that you can formulate a clear sense of how your interests and skills correspond to the requirements in your target fields. If you can project a sound sense of direction, employers will be more comfortable devoting resources to train you.
Build a Career Network
Winter break is an ideal time to reach out to contacts in locations, fields, and organizations of interest. Use informational interviews to ask them for advice about your search, information about their field, and suggestions about jobs and internships. These meetings can often lead to job referrals and are a critical piece of any summer or entry-level job search.
Tap Your Connections
Ask your college career and/or alumni office for a list of contacts in fields and geographic areas of interest. Parents can help by pulling together a list of family contacts to approach for informational interviews.
Send a letter via email or old-fashioned snail mail to these people telling them a little about what you are up to in your life and include a request for an informational consult or referrals to any of their contacts in areas of interest. If the letter is to a family contact, include a current photo – old folks love to see how you've grown!
Attend Holiday Gatherings
Take advantage of any holiday gatherings to talk about your situation and ask for advice and referrals. You will be amazed at how helpful these family "friendlies" can be with your job search!
Set Up a Job Shadow
If you identify any people eager to help, consider asking them if you could shadow them or a colleague over break. A shadow experience will give you great insight into the field and the opportunity to meet and make a favorable impression with lots of people on the inside of that organization.
Attend Job Fairs
Check to see if there are any job fairs in your area over break and attend if possible. Ask your college career office as well as local chambers of commerce for suggestions for local or popular fairs.
Line Up a Winter Break Internship or Job
If your break is long enough, you might be able to line up an internship or a short-term job. Employers love to hire successful interns for post-graduate employment. You might also consider returning to one of your summer intern sites if you had a positive experience since less training would be required.
Use Social Media
Use the break to create or update a LinkedIn profile, search for a networking group for your college, and/or ask your career or alumni office for suggestions. Identify industry groups for fields of interest and join them if they are open to students. Reach out to people in these groups and ask if you might meet with them for an informational consultation to learn more about their field.
Connect With Your References
If possible, an in-person interaction can be more powerful than an email or phone call. Update your references on your latest achievements, and confirm that you would benefit from their support with your search. Ask them if there are any individuals to whom they could introduce you, or opportunities that they would recommend that you pursue.
Target Spring Campus Recruiters
Identify employers who will be visiting your campus to recruit this upcoming spring, then compose drafts of cover letters, and revise your resume in anticipation of their visit. Professionals in your college's career services office will often be available during break to critique your letters from a distance.
Use Winter Break to Speed Up Your Job Search
If you spend a couple of hours each day over break carrying out these types of activities, you will still have time to decompress. You'll also relieve some of the pressure of the upcoming spring job search.