Putting Your Break to Work

[Contributed by Career Center Writer Roxana Hadadi]

It’s tough to think about work during winter break, but according to Career Center peer advisors, winter break is the ideal time to focus on how you want to present yourself to future employers, whether you’re looking for internships, part-time jobs, or full-time opportunities after graduation.

Career Center peer advisors, who are available for drop-in advising every day during the semester, aren’t taking their winter break lying down. Read on for their tips on how to stay motivated during the holiday season, from how to research jobs to the importance of keeping in touch with your favorite professors.

Lead Peer Advisor Eric Fleddermann, KSB/SIS/BA’13, has held two internships and four part-time jobs during his time at AU. Peer Advisor Robbie Gramer, SIS/BA’13, has held six internships and four part-time jobs during his time at AU, and Peer Advisor Quinn Smeaton has held five internships and two part-time jobs during her time at AU.


Q: How can students improve or work on their career prospects during winter break?

Eric: Apply, apply, apply. Writing cover letters or tailoring your resume isn’t hard work, but it does take some time to research organizations, find open positions, and submit application materials.  Applications take time, and winter break is one of those rare periods where busy AU students have some time to think about their future careers.

Robbie: The best thing to do is plan for summer internships. Often, summer internship deadlines are in February and March, when you’re right in the middle of midterms and paper writing. So the more you prepare now, while you have time, the better prepared you are to apply to those summer internships before the deadline.

Quinn: The great thing about winter break is that you do not have any schoolwork obligations, which means that you have a bit more free time to research and explore potential careers. When you’re home, friends and family will likely bombard you with questions regarding your academic career or post-graduation plans. While these questions can sometimes be intimidating, take the opportunity to share your interests. You never know if your uncle or neighbor might know someone who you could talk to or potentially set up an informational interview with.


Q: What can students research during their time off to better prepare for the upcoming semester?

Eric: If you are looking to continue your education, look up scholarship or graduate school opportunities. If you are looking for employment, definitely research job and internship listings.  Use all resources available to you like Idealist, USAJobs, and, of course, AUCareerWeb. Once you find a job or internship you’re interested in, scour the organization’s website for information on what skills they’re looking for and how you can contribute to fulfilling their mission.


AU: What shouldn’t students do during winter break?

Eric: Don’t stress yourself out during break—about career matters or otherwise. After a busy semester and a grueling finals week, make sure to take time for yourself. Your academic success is a very important factor for your future career, and you want to return to school next semester well rested and ready to work more towards your dream career. Research career options and submit applications, but make sure to keep the “break” in winter break.

Robbie: Don’t drop off the radar—keep in touch. That whole ‘networking is key’ thing…is cliché, but its cliché for a reason. Networking works.


AU: How could students network in their field during their time off?

Robbie: Informational interviews are a great way to network. Reach out to professors and former bosses, even family and friends. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone else. Additionally, people enjoy helping you. It’s important never to ask people for jobs or internships, but rather to ask them for advice on job and internship searching. It sounds much less pushy, and people will usually respond better to giving advice rather than soliciting an internship or job.

AU: How would you advise students to look for and land internships?

Quinn: Take advantage of volunteer opportunities and study abroad programs. While volunteer opportunities can occur off campus, students should not overlook positions within student organizations. An on-campus leadership or volunteer role can involve anything from event planning to communication skills that are very applicable in the workplace. I would also recommend looking into study abroad programs with an internship component. If I had not gone through a study abroad program [to Kenya], I would have likely not had the opportunity during my university career to intern with a local, grassroots NGO abroad.


AU: How are you spending your break?

Robbie: Doing just what I mentioned. … Occasionally emailing former internship advisors and my professors with a few questions about internships I applied to, tips and advice for upcoming interviews, questions on where to apply in the future.