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How to make the most of the summer break

Wednesday 18 July 2018 Work Experience

There are many ways to increase your employability during the summer break - what's more, most of them can be great fun

While recharging your batteries with a well-earned break is important, spending three whole months relaxing could leave you disadvantaged in the jobs market and wishing that you'd done more during your university years.

Here are some ways you can greatly improve the student experience - and your personal development - by making the most of your summer…

Learn new skills

Learning relevant skills will strengthen job applications, while demonstrating motivation and enthusiasm for your career. If you're interested in digital marketing, for example, studying HTML will be advantageous for roles that require you to manage email campaigns.

Kirsti Burton, careers information manager at Queen Mary, University of London, suggests when choosing to learn a new skill, to look at job descriptions for the roles that interest you. This will allow you to identify the specific skills and experience recruiters look for, so you can study the particular area that will impress the employers you aim to apply to. Study doesn't just have to include taking a formal course. 'Reading about an industry, and learning about its trends and developments, is also an excellent way of boosting your commercial awareness,' she adds.

Even generic activities - honing your academic writing style, for example - are guaranteed to boost your CV. Attending language school or teaching English as a foreign language, meanwhile, are always hugely beneficial; both develop your communication skills while clarifying your future options.

Countless local colleges and private education providers run short courses during the summer months, either face-to-face or online. 'These don't just aid your personal and professional development; they also provide invaluable networking opportunities,' explains Isabel Frazer, deputy head of careers and employability at King's College London. 'Many jobs or internships aren't advertised formally, so expanding your networks can help you to discover hidden openings.'

Chris Caswell, head of careers and employability at the University of Chichester, offers one leftfield suggestion - attending University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) camp. A separate section of the British Army Reserve, it provides military training to students at British universities. 'This will develop leadership, interpersonal skills and resilience,' he adds.


Get work experience

'Instead of sitting around during the summer holidays make the most of your valuable time off and organise some work experience to get a feel for an organisation you would like to work for,' advises Lena Bauchop, careers development adviser at the University of Stirling. 'Employers will always look more favourably on the effort taken by go-getters who have gone out and done work experience.'

Internships and part-time jobs - especially those that match your career preferences - offer countless benefits. According to Isabel, work experience allows you to demonstrate the abilities, attitudes and motivation that recruiters look for, while providing them with quantitative and qualitative evidence of your skills. What's more, it also spawns superb networking opportunities.

'Most graduate employers expect candidates to have some work experience, and sometimes they'll expect this to be in a relevant field,' warns Isabel. 'A part-time job as a tutor, for example, can provide solid evidence of adapting your communication style to new audiences. Organising a launch event for a local charity, meanwhile, demonstrates effective planning.'

On the flipside, internships and part-time jobs also help you to understand which jobs and industries you enjoy most; informing your future decisions in terms of what to pursue. 'Students should use work experience as a tester for sectors about which they know little,' agrees Chris. 'The smaller the organisation the better, as students must turn their hand to numerous tasks rather than being isolated in one role or department.'

Exclusive work experience opportunities can be found through your university's careers and employability service.

If you're looking for work during the holidays, discover how to get a summer job

Pursue your hobbies

Even when relaxing, you can enhance your employability. Indeed, as Isabel points out, showing employers that you're about more than study and work can help demonstrate your personality even further.

'Pursuing your interests shows dedication and motivation, plus who you are as a person,' she adds. 'This is crucial during the recruitment process. Organisations hire people, not just achievements listed on a CV.'

'Another great CV booster is volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to network and exposes you to a range of core workplace activities,' adds Lena. Voluntary roles are available in fields such as sports, festivals and performing arts, while travelling also throws up countless opportunities. All can contribute greatly to your personal development.

'It's possible to combine your interests and hobbies with job hunting,' claims Kirsti. 'Find out about potential opportunities. Remember that genuine interest in the industry or activity is valued by employers, as it demonstrates existing understanding of the product, market and audience.'

While he admits that any recreational activity will illustrate some transferable skills, Chris claims that the most useful ventures 'take you out of your comfort zone' and help to hone the key psychometric traits that graduate employers relish.

'Refresh the mind with problems of a different nature, to develop cognitive, psychomotor and attitudinal skills,' he says. 'Some of the core esoteric skills such as emotional intelligence, resilience and networking will benefit.