Maximizing a Jobless Summer

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The time has finally come: School’s out for summer! But while students everywhere may be rejoicing over the fact that they can finally stow away their books and pencils, some may find the moment bittersweet. That’s because in the current economy, it can be hard to find a summer job or internship, and there are undoubtedly quite a few budding IT professionals with no plans for the next few months.

However, all is not lost. Even if you’re faced with a jobless summer, you can still make the most of your time by following a few of these simple tips:

Set a regular schedule. When you don’t have classes and you’re not working, it could be tempting to sleep until noon and wear pajamas every day. Don’t. Set goals for yourself both on a daily and on a monthly basis. Keep a checklist and be organized and diligent about crossing items off when you’ve completed them. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.

Continue to apply. Just because a position hasn’t come through yet doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, now you can dedicate yourself fully to finding employment. Continue to apply for positions, and pound the pavement if necessary. Set up informational interviews with companies you’re interested in by contacting their human resources departments. Always reiterate your interest. Also, be sure to have an up-to-date resume on hand.

Leverage job boards. This is related to the previous point. When you’re applying for open positions via generic job boards, you want to stand out. According to a Black-Collegian.com article, you should “actively follow up with listings that are of particular interest by calling your career center or other contacts you are aware of that may know individuals or professionals who work in the organization.”

Set up meetings with helpful professionals. Now’s the time to start building your professional network. A good place to start might be your parents’ friends. Express your interest in getting their career advice and see if you can get together for lunch or coffee. In addition to providing valuable insight, they might know of open, perhaps unpublicized positions in their organizations.

Volunteer. One great way to boost your resume while learning valuable skills is by volunteering. While many summer volunteering opportunities may not be within the IT field, these positions can teach you skills that will come in handy in any job, such as teamwork and discipline. Also, you can try to volunteer your IT services by seeking out firms you’re interested in and getting in touch with the appropriate hiring contact — usually someone in the human resources department.

Take summer classes. There are plenty of academic classes you can enroll in to fill your days while bulking up your skill set. Your college career center likely can provide a list of local summer programs. When choosing a program, you’ll want to consider class content, schedule, location, credit and overall atmosphere. For example, you’ll want to think about “what the school’s location offers besides studying,” according to an EHow.com article. The article added that you should ask yourself: “Are outdoor activities important to [me], or do [I] prefer an urban environment?”

Consider starting your own business. “Faced with the darkest summer-job market since the government began collecting data after World War II, a growing number of teens are turning to entrepreneurship,” according to a FamilyFinanceNews.com article. If you’ve ever had a great idea for a business, this might be a good time to test the market. To get the ball rolling, you will need to create a comprehensive business plan that includes a mission, budget, contact list and marketing strategy. You also will need start-up capital. And keep in mind your business will only succeed if you’ve identified a niche that needs filling. 

– Agatha Gilmore, agilmore@certmag.com

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