Winter break is a time that college students look forward to early on during their first week on campus. When course schedules and commitments get busy, and students begin feeling a little (or a lot) overwhelmed, there’s a small voice that may begin popping up in their head that says, “ I can’t wait until winter break when I can sleep in and not have to be accountable to anyone.”
While students at this juncture believe this little voice in their head, many students also find that they recover quickly and begin questioning what they are going to do for the next three or four weeks that they are home from college. If they have not made any plans, they may find themselves bored and start looking for ways that they can best occupy their time. It is why planning early and looking for an internship or volunteer experience during the fall semester for winter break, makes sense to many college students. Job shadowing is also a great way to gain exposure and make connections for one or more days during winter break.
Gaining relevant work experience during winter break can be invaluable to a college student hoping to break into a particular career field or industry.
When researching winter break internships, you will probably find that very little comes up on the internet. For a number of reasons, many employers don’t even think about hiring college students during this time of year. For one, far fewer students seek internships during this short period of time. Also, many employers feel that there’s not much a student can accomplish in a three to four-week time span to make it worthwhile for either the employer or the student.
So while employers may be busy with holiday shutdowns or year-end reporting, students are spending their time sleeping in and catching up with friends and family or watching TV marathons to get caught up on their favorite shows. Although college students anticipate winter break long before it happens, many of them tell me that after the first two weeks they find themselves ready to return to college. So why not use this time to gain valuable knowledge and skills in a field of interest and as a way to make important networking contacts within an organization for future references or to help land a future internship or job?
In the past, you may have found the competition tough when looking to land an internship in your field of interest. Thousands of students compete heavily for some of the most prestigious, competitive internships in the country. Even in smaller communities, there are many students looking to find summer work in their hometown or in their local college community. When seeking a winter break internship, the challenge is more about connecting with employers and making them see your services as valuable to them during this time of year.
You will want to begin your search early. Contacting an employer the second week of December and inquiring about a winter break internship, is just not going to work. It’s important to begin your search and start contacting employers around October or early November of the fall semester for a winter break internship.
Networking is the #1 job search strategy out there, and it works well for finding internships as well. You may start by contacting people in your personal network – family, friends, faculty, previous employers, etc., and then move on to a more formal network of alumni and/or parents provided by your college or through social networking sites like LinkedIn. Letting people know about your interests and your skills will put you on their radar screen when thinking about how you might be of assistance during this wither very busy or downtime of the year. Previous employers are another source for potential short-term internships and a way to stay in touch with past connections that you’ve made. Doing an internship during winter break will also help to keep you in close proximity to an employer's future needs for upcoming internships and jobs.
Although you may find a handful of organizations offering internships during winter break, you are most likely going to have to make your own experience happen by networking or prospecting with individuals currently working in the field. Identifying places in which you’d like to work is the first step, followed up by emailing and calling the company and letting them know that you are a college student interested in finding work over winter break.
Since most employers don’t think of hiring college students during this time of year, you will need to convince them of how you will be an asset to their organization even if it’s only for a short period of time during winter break. Always focus on the employer's needs and be sure to do your research on the company so that you can offer ways that you might be able to help them for this short period of time. As a college student, you have many of the skills that some of their full-time employees may lack especially when it comes to technology or using social media to advance their presence online.
Volunteering is another way to fill up your time with useful activities that will make you feel good while benefiting others at the same time. Volunteering is also another great experience to have on your resume. When speaking to employers about potential candidates for internships or jobs, many of them state that previous volunteer experience or studying/interning/working abroad are things that they find favorable when hiring college students for employment.
So, if you are looking to do something meaningful over winter break, these strategies can be helpful since you probably won’t find many opportunities listed online. By being prepared with a short “elevator speech” to introduce yourself to employers you also want to have a script ready about ways you can impact an organization during this short period of time.