For college students, summer break is just (and finally!) beginning… and life after college has begun. Already, many have turned their thoughts to spending time with family, taking some down time, and maybe enjoying a beach or two.
But summer isn’t all about retreating to familiar surroundings, fiercely sleeping in, and flip-flops. For many, this is also a time for and about next steps in their lives and career. So we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) this question:
What should every college student do during summer break to move their career forward?
Enjoy their helpful answers and astute advice!
1. Learn How to Ask Questions
Once you graduate college, you’re going to be thrown into corporate or start-up environments where you will usually not have the right answer. Get comfortable asking for help, feedback and best practices. When you’re 22, no one expects you to have all the answers, so don’t pretend. Be curious, be humble, and start asking away. Rule of thumb: people want to help you.
2. Be Diverse
Try as many different things as possible. You probably already have a career in mind based on your major, but there are so many different directions most majors out there can be taken. Instead of focusing on just one, dabble in a few different things that contribute toward your passion. Then your resumé will be diversified, and you’ll be opening up as many possibilities as you can for yourself.
3. Spend 20 Hours on Your Weakest Skill
Author Josh Kaufman asserts, and has proven multiple times, that you can learn a new skill in 20 hours of dedicated practice. So, instead of learning something completely new, choose the one aspect of your desired career that you struggle with the most and dedicate 20 hours to improving that skill. It won’t be the most exciting part of your summer, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
4. Wait Tables
Learning how to deal with different customers, different employees and difficult bosses will get students ready for the real world. Some of the people I have worked with have been some of the most successful entrepreneurs I ever met, and whenever we all get together, we discuss how much we learned in our college days while working at different restaurants. Serving tables means learning the real world.
5. Take an Internship
Internships are an incredible — and risk-free — way to sort out what you want to pursue later in life and in your career. Assess what you absolutely love at that stage of your life and do it, regardless of what the long-term career implications seem to look like. I would have never figured out my path without college internships to pursue different endeavors.
6. Do Volunteer and Sales Work
Spend part of your summer in service of others who are less fortunate to develop a sense of gratitude for being offered the opportunity of higher education. As an immigrant, it was not as easily accessible in my native country as it is here. Spend another part of your summer in sales. Life is sales or service; even if it is not in your ultimate job description, sales is an element.
7. Extend Your Network
So many students take their summer breaks to vacation and relax, which is understandable, but that time is invaluable in a young entrepreneur’s life. I always advise college students to take advantage of their summers by interning and extending their networks of resources. It’s those relationships they foster that will most likely lead to employment at the conclusion of their studies.
8. Travel and See the World
The perspective you gain from traveling will help inform your biggest life decisions by allowing you the space to see what’s important to you while simultaneously clarifying your values. Take the opportunity to volunteer as you travel, leaving with real experiences that you can learn perspective from. A trip to India and Southeast Asia completely changed my life and career path!
9. Create and Market Your Content
Content creation and marketing contains valuable skills for anybody, regardless of industry. It includes researching and planning content, finding a way to market it online, and reaching out to influencers to sell yourself and your content. You’ll learn project management, marketing, sales and more. On top of that, you’ll have a nice project to add to your resumé.
10. Become a LinkedIn Wizard
Every college student should make themselves LinkedIn wizards by the end of the summer. This includes everything from a completely filled out profile with media links to connecting with every family member, school colleague or internship acquaintance they can think of. Building an online presence and network will be vitally important as one starts to think about internships and full-time positions after graduation.
11. Take a Risk and Start a Business
If you’re inclined to be an entrepreneur, take a business from concept to launch. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as visiting local flea markets and garage sales in your neighborhood, then purchasing items and reselling them online. The most important lessons to be learned about are negotiation, money management, selling, rejection, failure and persistence.
12. Create an NPO
Get together with the most brilliant students that you know (all the better if you feel a little intimidated by these students), and start a mission specific non-profit organization. If you can get buy-in from a lecturer or professor, you’re definitely on your way to running something that will have longevity well after graduation. Starting an NPO looks good on your resumé, because it shows that you are able to network on your own.
13. Read and Find Mentors
Read, read, read. College students should not just stick to books on entrepreneurship. They should also educate themselves in the psychology of persuasion, effective sales techniques, and the lives of other successful business owners. Also, they should find a few mentors by either working for them during the summer break or connecting and asking questions through LinkedIn.
14. Volunteer for a Mentor
Pick someone in your field of study that you admire, want to work for, or want to work with, and then offer to work for them for free. Making yourself easily available will give you an in if a traditional role is not available. You’ll have an opportunity to learn from the best (hands-on experience is invaluable) and, most importantly, add a valuable resource to your network.
15. Write About Your Experiences
In this new world, when candidates are reviewed beyond the resumés, it is important for college students to start exploring the world and pen it from their eyes. Whatever you do in the summer — meet new people, help your city or a non-profit organization, interview influential people, or wait tables — it does not matter. What matters is to write your experiences. We need storytellers in every industry or domain.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched Business Collective. This free virtual mentorship program helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.