By, Erika Peyton
During my undergrad, summer always tricked me into believing it would be a long stretch of blissful, relaxing peace. Each May, as I transitioned from bustling Chicago to my newest summer retreat, I felt sure the three months ahead would stretch on forever. I would have more than enough time to accomplish my various goals – such as catching up with friends, hiking a 14er, juggling the summer job, and keeping up with my professional development. However, like so many others, I quickly found that those three months slipped through my fingers like water. As was typical for me, the first items to drop from my busy to-do list generally surrounded professional development. Graduation was three… two… one year away! Plenty of time, right? Wrong. While I have no solutions to the persistent problem of those beautiful summer months flitting away so casually, I can suggest professional development options that won’t tax an already busy summer schedule.
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, job shadowing involves observing the day-to-day experiences of professionals in careers that interest you. Want to learn how an attorney for the military spends her day? How about the owner of that construction firm in your neighborhood? Reach out, ask politely, and give up one day (eight hours at most) to build a connection and learn about a career and industry.
The informational interview is a gold mine for learning about various careers and career pathways in a finite amount of time. On average, an informational interview is going to run from 30 minutes to an hour, tops! During that time you can learn about various career pathways, unique jobs you may have not heard about before, and get advice directly from the source. Since it’s a simple conversation, you also have the advantage of being able to utilize technology. So, even if you choose to spend your summer rafting the Arkansas River, you can still pull into an eddy to make a quick phone call to that cool editor at your favorite publishing house.
Not everyone lands that perfect summer job or internship that enables you to both make some cash and develop relevant skills in your field. However, volunteering can give you access to an industry, connect you with professionals in the field, and expand your skills. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association are often seeking volunteers to participate in committees, supporting everything from event revenue, to marketing, to planning.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your career is actually about more than the professional roles you take on in life. Career is a compilation of various roles, such as family member, friend, partner, citizen, creative, traveler, amateur marathoner – I could go on. These roles influence your experiences, interests, connections, passion for life, and general well being. So, while a productive summer focusing on professional development is definitely valuable, using those long summer days to grow holistically – as a whole person – is an essential part of the process. Take time for yourself, the people you love, and breath in that perfect summer air.
Happy summer Bobcats!