Archive for June, 2011

Leveraging Your Summers

It’s that time of year again.  Final exams are over.  School is out.  Sunny days and warm weather are on the horizon.  And students across the land are relishing the fact that they won’t have to pick up another text book or attend another lecture until next September.

It is at this time of year that students are also trying to figure out the most effective way to spend their summer months off.  While it can be very tempting to just throw in the towel (pun intended), hit the beach, hang out with friends and just relax, summers can be pivotal times in which students can build the supplemental skills and experience they will need to be successful in finding post-graduation employment. 

In a new economy that features a highly skilled and talented workforce, simply graduating from post-secondary is no longer sufficient to land an engaging career.  Competition for high quality jobs is getting increasingly fierce.  It has never been more important for young professionals to understand that they need those “X factor” skills if they want to find a meaningful opportunity once they have completed their studies.

A great way to get a head-start on the competition is to engage with a relevant work, internship or volunteer opportunity during these glorious summer months that many of your colleagues will opt to afternoon-nap away. 

For students who have already chosen a career path, gaining experience through a summer initiative can help add tangible, work-related skills to complement your educational endeavors.  As an excellent article I read recently effectively articulated, employers look for recent graduates who have been proactive in developing well-rounded skill-sets when evaluating which candidates to hire.  If you have decided on and are confident in your future career direction, such a skill-development exercise will greatly benefit your resume and will make you look more appealing to potential employers down the road. 

Alternatively, for those of us who have no idea what we want to do with our education (I was once part of this group), summer career-building activities present a chance to explore what you might actually want to do once you’ve completed school and are entering the labour market.  How often do we hear of people who just took the first job that came around once they graduated because they felt like they had to be doing SOMETHING?  These people often discover the job they end up accepting is in no way helpful to their medium- and long-term career goals.  They usually end up quitting and starting from scratch. 

We learn through experience, and finding a career you can bring passion and enthusiasm to over a span of 5 or more years can be highly challenging.  Wouldn’t you rather learn about careers you want to avoid through a time-limited, 2 or 3 month summer contract with which you have no ongoing commitment?  Summer work can be instrumental in helping you determine aspects of jobs you do and don’t like, which is highly valuable information to consider when you embark on the process of carving out your individual path. 

And you never know, you very well could stumble upon something you absolutely love doing, which will provide clarity for you moving forward.  Some people are lucky enough to find their passion in one of the first occupations they try, so it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. 

For many of us, however, establishing a career direction is a trial and error process that involves experimenting with several different positions and organizations.  The earlier you start this process, the more likely you are to arrive at your destination before your peers. And the less likely it will be that you will have to keep working that menial, low-skill job you held while you were completing your education.

*Ryan Paulson is a Career & Employment Information Specialist @ Pacific Community Resources Society.  He contributes to the MyERC blog through www.myerc.ca.  Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn at http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/ryan-paulson/15/603/11b

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