‘Twas the first week of the winter break and the holiday season, when all through campus, not a creature was stirring, not even the students and faculty as they welcomed the close of yet another successful semester and embraced the time for relaxation and celebration. With the most wonderful time of the year in full swing, you deserve to have yourself a merry little Christmas and deck the halls with your loved ones as you ring in the new year and reflect on all you’ve accomplished. Still, as you revel in holiday cheer and winter break, don’t forget to take advantage of all the opportunities you have to advance your career success prior to your return to campus for the spring semester:
1. Yule be making a list of potential experiential learning opportunities, and checking it twice. Winter break presents the perfect opportunity to search Handshake, LinkedIn, Indeed, and other professional platforms for internships, co-ops, assistantships, jobs, fellowships, full-time employment, and other experiential learning opportunities for the spring semester or the summer. To secure an experiential learning opportunity for the spring or summer, you should actively search and submit applications for positions now; in fact, employers begin the search for interns and potential employees as early as 8 months in advance of the position’s start date. Internships, co-ops, and other experiential learning opportunities serve as essential to the career development process, as they allow your professional skills and network to evolve tremendously in order to best prepare you for the working world. Remember to complete your Handshake profile and upload your resume into the system to assist you in creating a list of experiential learning opportunities that strike your interest and present the best opportunities for your professional growth.
2. Log-in to Handshake and make an appointment with your career advisor to spruce up your resume and cover letters and get them into mint condition – but wait, there’s myrrh! While you may have wrapped up your resume and cover letters in a nice little bow in prior semesters, it’s essential that you continue to update your resume and cover letters every semester to highlight your most recent experiential learning opportunities and improved professional skill set. Constantly updating your resume allows you to further identify skills you may need to work on developing and refining in future positions to strengthen your credentials. You should revisit and update your resume and cover letters throughout the academic year to ensure you’re prepared for any professional event, interview, or position that may arise. While your career advisors certainly serve as indispensable resources to assist in touching-up or creating resumes and cover letters, there’s snow much more your career advisors can help you with! Your career advisor can aid in the career exploration process, provide vital tips for proper networking, guide you in the internship and job search, help to prepare you for and conduct a mock interview, provide insight to the graduate school search and application process, and even refine your ability to negotiate job or salary offers! Your Handshake account enables you with the ability to schedule an appointment with your career advisor to focus on any of the specified areas of career development and further your career success. Career advisors return back to campus on January 6th for appointments, and will happily conduct phone appointments if you are unable to physically visit campus over the winter break. If you need to meet with a career advisor as soon as you return from winter break, remember to visit the O’Brien Center’s walk-in hours, every Monday through Thursday from 1-3PM – no appointment necessary!
3. Meaningful connections are snow joke: update your LinkedIn profile to improve your social media presents and enhance your professional brand and network. In addition to the connections you create in-person, social media platforms such as LinkedIn play a vital role in the development of your professional brand and expanding your network. While the creation of a LinkedIn account may suffice in the initial steps of aiding in your career development, you must remember to maintain an active LinkedIn profile to strengthen your online presence and make use of your connections. Utilize your current connections within your immediate network to reach out to family, friends, co-workers, and peers to learn more about their positions and companies to gain ideas for the future of your own career. You can even take advantage of the opportunity to arrange an informational interview with a professional in your field of interest through the connections you create and maintain on LinkedIn. Informational interviews allow you to meet with a professional in the industry you seek to enter upon graduation in order to receive insight into their experiences and their advice for navigating the working world. An informational interview presents you with the chance to receive a glimpse into the industry or company you wish to work for in the future and express your interest in the field, as well as to deepen your connection with a distinguished individual in your professional network. You can utilize the LinkedIn alumni search tool to reach out to Merrimack alumni and find individuals with a position in your field of interest to create meaningful connections, spark discussions, and even request an informational interview. To learn more about how to utilize the LinkedIn alumni search tool, you can meet with your career advisor by making an appointment on Handshake or visiting their walk-in hours. If you’d like further guidance on the importance of LinkedIn and how to use the platform to your benefit, consider our 8 Easy Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn to Help You Enhance Your Professional Brand.
4. Since you’ll be home for Christmas, give yourself the gift of elf-reflection and examine your strengths, passions, and previous experiences. While the weather outside is frightful, learning more about your strengths, the skills you’ve developed, how your passions have evolved, and the experiences you’ve had as you sit by the fire is so delightful. As you’re curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and dreaming of a white Christmas, indulge in the various resources and assessments available to help you discover more information about your leadership and communication styles and your strengths. Consider the DiSC assessment, Clifton Strengths, Meyers Briggs, 16Assessment, and Awato assessment to reflect most effectively on your strengths and passions. Remember to also reflect upon your past experiential learning opportunities to identify how you should move forward in your future career endeavors and discern which experiential learning opportunities may best suit the development of your career. Evaluate how meaningful the work you completed felt to you, how you felt about the culture of the company, what skills the position helped you to gain, and areas in which you’d like to improve in your future positions. Determine if your experience made you think in a different way, challenged you in some way, made you feel confident in your abilities, or made you feel like you really contributed to the mission of the company. Additionally, consider the nature of your co-workers, supervisor, and company values to determine if you need to make a change in the positions you apply for in the future. Try asking yourself:
- Did you like the culture of your workplace? Why or why not?
- If you did not like the culture, what needs to be different about the culture of your future experiential learning opportunity?
- Is the culture specific to the company, or widespread throughout the industry?
- What did you like or dislike about your relationship with your supervisor?
- If you feel the work wasn’t meaningful, was there anything that you or your company could have done to make the work possess more meaning for you or the firm? What actions you can take to avoid such matters in your future experiences?
While it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the holiday season, don’t forget to continue to take the necessary steps towards advancing the development of your career into your career success this winter break. ‘Tis the season to be jolly and take advantage of all the opportunities you have around you to make the most of your winter break and ensure you’re prepared for both academic and career success upon your return to campus for the spring semester. Happy holidays to all, and to all a successful winter break!
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021