3 Professional Development Tips to Maximize Your Summer

Written by Emily Linginfelter, Marketing and Communications Intern

Summer begins in 25 days. If we convert this to student metrics, that’s about 10 assignments, five group projects, two theses and five final exams away. Yikes! The good news is that after this hurdle, we’ll be greeted with sunnier days.  Many of us – from freshmen to seniors – trade those crazy college schedules for full-time careers, internships, summer jobs, vacations and, most of all, relaxation! We’re here to give three pro-fresh summer tips so that when August arrives, you can have a great answer to “What did you do over summer break?”

I sat down with three of our career coaches – Nichole Arbino, Beth Zink and April Robles – to discuss strategies to boost career development during the holidays. The following sections discuss insights for setting goals, scheduling informational interviews, attending conferences and strengthening skills.

Nichole Arbino

Set Goals

Everyone should spend a few quiet moment establishing personal goals, and they need to be completed at the beginning of summer. April Robles says this drives our immediate work and helps us visualize a successful outcome in the future.

Autumn Heisler, the creative director for Cincinnati’s Dooley Media, recently presented a quick system to set up goals in less than 30 minutes.

  1. Establish an achievable long-term goal. What motivates you? Only you can answer this question, so don’t worry about what other people tell you where you should be in four yearsInstead, focus on where you want to go. An example of a long-term goal is graduating with a degree that highlights your strong interests, and another is landing a job that practices your favorite skills.
  2. Break the goal into short-term strategies. Make a list of creative ways to accomplish that desired long-term goal. Some examples might be volunteering at a relevant organization, meeting three people who work in your career interest, applying for degree-related internships or updating your resume, professional website and business cards.
  3. Create a step-by-step plan and evaluation. This involves creating a rough calendar of target dates for finishing your short-term strategies. Additionally write down important schedules, which may include local career events or deadlines for internship projects.

Once you’ve created a strategic plan, April suggests printing a physical copy of your goals. Place these someplace where you can constantly read them for motivation. Click here for more tips and examples.

Request Informational Interviews and Job Shadows

A wise prophet once said, “Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

To improve your professional knowledge and skills, step out of your comfort zone, and be bold! Nichole Arbino says many professionals love to share their stories and advice. Informational interviews and job shadows are great summer alternatives to attending networking events, because you engage in casual, one-on-one conversations with people who can provide clear insights about a specific career.

Where can you find these amazing mentors during the summer?

Nichole recommends starting within the social networks of your family and friends. Ask others if they can introduce you to someone who shares a similar career path or interest. If you already admire an organization, reach out to the recruiters and see if they can connect you with a professional!

Beth Zink also recommends following the Xavier University Alumni LinkedIn group that contains more than 8,462 people in our community. Scroll through the members list, and send a message to alumni who work in your desired industry. If you are unsure about how to ask a stranger for advice, have a quick chat with one of our career coaches!

Pro Tip: “If you’d like to physically meet professionals, say that you want to buy them a cup of coffee sometime. This is a clever way to show sincere interest.”  – Rachel Schilling, Talent Specialist for POSSIBLE

Develop Skills

Nichole, Beth and April agree that summer is an important time to develop communication and technical skills. For instance, many job descriptions ask for proficiency in Microsoft Excel, but how many of us actually know the specifics for managing hundreds of cells and formulas? How can we improve confidence?

  1. Technical Skills– The Internet is a beautiful place for self-learning! If you need to learn something brand new for a job or internship, there’s bound to be related podcasts or step-by-step video tutorials. Nichole recommends scoping YouTube or Atomic Learning, which is a free program for Xavier students and faculty. Simply log in with your Xavier username and password, and you’ll have access to more than 44,000 tutorials. We recommend picking up the specifics for Microsoft Excel, but our best advice is matching your skills with common job descriptions for your major.
  2. Communication Skills– These are easy to develop through self-awareness. Answer these two questions: (1) What are your strengths and weaknesses? (2) How might they promote or limit professional success? After answering these questions, find mindful solutions to change poor habits, and motivate yourself to utilize strengths in daily interactions.

Takeaway

This summer, increase your career qualifications by setting goals, requesting informational interviews and job shadows, and developing professional skills. The Xavier Career Development Office is open throughout the summer, so when you come across any career challenges or questions, we are always an appointment, phone call, email or Skype session away. Have a wonderful summer break, Muskies!

“You just call out our names, and you know wherever we are, we’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, SUMMER, or fall. All you have to do it call, and we’ll be there. You’ve got friends.” – Carole King’s masterpiece, CDO style

Summer-2014-is-coming-funny-picture

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