Just in Time for Summer: The Best Career To-Do List for College Students

I had a sick sense of humor as a kid; when summer vacation started, I looked forward to forgetting everything I learned in school. Sorry, Mom.

Truth is, “summer learning loss” is a real thing for younger kids; and in my experience, it happens to college students too. Heck, I was always fist-pumping outside of the classroom when my last finals were over—mostly because I didn’t have to remember everything about philosophy/western civilizations/the hydrogen cycle anymore.

But aside from intentionally forgetting stuff, summer is a funny time for college students. You lounge by the pool. You freak out over getting a job. You hang out with friends. You wonder if you should talk to employers. It’s relaxing and nerve-wracking at the same time.

Research suggests that kids can avoid summer learning loss if they stay connected to class material (with stuff like extra classes or shortened summers—bleh). I’m not saying that you should keep studying the hydrogen cycle after school lets out, but you should do something productive during your break—even if you already have a job or internship lined up for the next few months. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Create (and curate) content

Believe it: social media and blogging can look good on a resume and get you a job. Pick platforms that integrate well with your industry of choice. For instance:

  • If you study in a STEM field, research and post about those topics on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Platforms like Instagram work well for the visual arts. Snap pictures of your creative projects and tag them accordingly.
  • Writers, you need to blog—and comment on blogs in your field too.
  • If you like entertaining folks, start a YouTube channel or podcast.

2. Volunteer

If you want to explore a particular field but have no experience, volunteering is your gateway. Companies may not post about volunteering opportunities, but they can probably use an extra set of hands—contact them and offer your time. Working with charitable organizations can build lots of transferable skills too.

3. Update your job search materials (or make new ones)

You’ve been putting it off during the school year—no more excuses.

  • Research what good resumes and cover letters look like.
  • Look at qualifications for the jobs you want and reflect on how you can build the right skills.
  • Create or modify your LinkedIn profile.
  • Network like crazy; shy folks can start out with family, friends, and classmates.

4. Think about finances

Ugh, that sounds scary… but dive in before things get ugly. Dig up information on your school loan repayment plans, start a savings account, and think about investing (seriously!). Start building smart money habits now; they’ll come in handy when your paycheck gets bigger.

5. Start a side hustle

You might need a business license (and your income might get taxed later), but side hustles make epic resume boosters. Etsy stores, ebooks, freelance design or writing… there are all kinds of ways to sell your talents for profit.
I hereby give you permission to fist pump after finals, and even forget some of what you learned in philosophy class—just don’t forget your summer career to-do list.

How are you going to boost your career game this summer? Leave a comment!

Image: chrisada / CC BY 2.0

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