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12 Ways to Kickstart Your Career this Summer

Written by Colleen Coleman

Whether you’re interning, traveling, working close to home, or studying, here are 12 easy steps you can take this summer to help you narrow your career choices or stay on track with the career path you’ve chosen:

  1. Reflect on academic and work-related experiences.
    Discuss your experiences with a friend or mentor and write your thoughts in a notebook. What are your favorite classes at Hillsdale thus far, and why? Do you have any favorite professors? What aspects of your most recent job did you most enjoy? What aspects of the work proved most challenging? What have you learned from your summer job or internship thus far? What are some specific things you would like to achieve by the end of your summer job or internship?
  2. Take a personality test.
    Knowing your personality plays an important role in finding a fulfilling career and meaningful work experience. Call or email Hillsdale College Career Services to receive a free code for a StrengthsQuest test.
  3. Research potential fields of interest and career paths online.
    Look at the different job postings on CareerShift and Handshake, noting any job descriptions which sound interesting. Join the Hillsdale College Alumni Network on LinkedIn and examine the employer industries, organizations, and geographic locations in which Hillsdale alums are working.
  4. Research graduate schools.
    If you are considering graduate school, research schools and specific programs of interest. By the end of the summer after your junior year, you will need to have a finalized list of graduate school programs you will apply to. As you research different programs, note any specializations that are available (e.g. you could attain a Masters in Education, or a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction). Explore different the different careers people with such specializations have chosen.
  5. Conduct an informational interview.
    An informational interview is 30 minute conversation in which you interview a professional working in your field of interest. Unlike job-shadowing, informational interviewing can be done remotely via phone or Skype. Read this post for tips on how to arrange and conduct a successful informational interview.
  6. Job-shadow someone in your field of interest.
    The flexibility of scheduling during the summer makes it a great time for job-shadowing. If you’ve already conducted an informational interview, you might have asked the professional to describe their typical workday and the work-environment (or work culture) of their organization. A job-shadow will allow you to navigate the ups-and-downs of a typical workday for yourself and experience the work-environment firsthand.
  7. Improve your LinkedIn profile.
    Simple steps you can take to improve your LinkedIn profile include rewriting your profile headline, updating your photo and qualifications, joining new groups, and collecting recommendations (from professors, work supervisors, colleagues, employers, and professional mentors). If you haven’t yet created a LinkedIn profile, make a goal of having a complete profile by the end of the summer.
  8. Familiarize yourself with Handshake.
    As a Hillsdale student, your Handshake page contains job postings from employers specifically seeking to hire Hillsdale graduates, as well as on-campus employers. Explore the job-postings, noting any that particularly excite you. Also note the academic and experiential requirements for these positions and think about any classes you could take or extracurricular activities you could participate in to increase you marketability in the field. Experiment with the different filters you can use to narrow your job-search.
  9. Write a few thank-you notes.
    Perhaps there is a professor whose class this past semester you greatly enjoyed, or an on-campus employer or mentor who has given you great experience and advice. Send them a thank-you note. It doesn’t have to be lengthy; keep it simple and sweet. A handwritten note will be appreciated more than an email.
  10. Update your resume.
    There usually isn’t enough room on your resume to list all the hard and soft skills you gained from your on-campus job, or all responsibilities you held during your summer internship. Reflecting on your work experience (Summer Step 1) will help you determine which skills and responsibilities are most important to include. Consider changing the format of your resume to make it look more professional.
  11. Request feedback.
    You should make a habit of requesting feedback from your work supervisors. This should include former and present employers. Whether in an email, a meeting, or a phone-call, ask them to suggest ways in which you could have/can improve your performance and could have been/can be of greater assistance to them. Do this periodically throughout the course of your job or internship, and then request a more thorough evaluation as your job or internship comes to a close.
  12. Mock interview yourself.
    Most people could use more interview confidence. Search “Common Interview Questions,” “Behavioral Interview Questions,” and job-specific or graduate-school-specific interview questions online. Select at least 4 questions from each of these categories. Spend a few hours thinking about how you would answer the questions. Then, use a camera to record yourself answering the questions. Make this mock-interview as close to a real-interview as possible; wear interview attire and sit at table or desk. When you watch your interview, take note of anything you should fix, such as poor posture, awkward facial movements or hand gestures, and word-repetition. Practice your interview a second time, focusing on these areas—you will see significant improvement.