by Sharon Fleshman
Once again, it is that time of year so I have updated my previous tips for career planning during winter break. Many of you are likely anticipating that last paper or exam and that sigh of relief. Therefore, the following tips should be seen as less like a “checklist” to complete and more like a “menu” from which you can choose what is most useful for you to accomplish during your downtime.
Think about your experiences at Penn so far. What have been some of your most energizing projects? Such projects may have taken place in the context of an internship, field placement, clinical rotation, class project, or a student organization. Write a quick summary of each project, what you accomplished, and what you enjoyed. Are there any common elements that you see from these projects that point to skills, values, and strengths? These reflections are not only helpful for improving your resumes, cover letters and interviews, but will also allow you to identify careers that may suit you going forward. Career Services has self-assessment resources that can help facilitate this process.
Winter break is a great time to research careers, industries, employers and job/internship opportunities. Make sure to peruse the Career Services website for online resources. For example, we have a variety of resources by career field available. Online versions of newspapers, trade publications and other periodicals are other good sources for industry research. Websites for professional associations and regional chambers of commerce can also provide helpful career, industry and employer information. Make sure that you update your Career Interests profile and look up relevant jobs and upcoming career fairs on Handshake.
Don’t forget that you already have quite a network which includes family, friends, alumni, current supervisors, and professors. Don’t be hesitant about reaching out to your network for insight and consider how you can help others in your network as well. Helpful resources for this include QuakerNet, LinkedIn, regional alumni clubs, and professional associations related to your field of interest. Another recently added resource for this is CareerShift, and more information on this tool is offered in a previous blog post written by my colleague Natty Leach.
In addition to networking and information interviewing, you can make connections with others while getting direct exposure to a career. For instance, volunteering is an excellent way to accomplish this with hands-on involvement. Perhaps you can assist someone in a field of interest in a short-term project. Another means of exposure is shadowing, which allows you to accompany someone in a career of interest during the course of a work day.
As you assess your career goals and progress you’ve made so far, you may decide that you need to make some adjustments. To do this, consider an approach with “flexible focus” by determining what is most important concerning your career plans and where you can be more flexible. For instance, you may be committed to a particular industry but may decide to expand your geographical options. Invite others to strategize with you. Once you have revisited your goals, it is time to document your plan of action with concrete, timely and measurable steps. Such a goal could sound something like, “I will conduct informational interviews with at least two people each month after break.”
Finally, the most important tip of all: RELAX!