So it’s been a few weeks since exams, you’re running out of Orange is the New Black episodes to watch, and are too sunburned to hit the pool for a few days (I’ve been there). The good news is there are plenty of options to explore in your down time that are both fun AND will set you up for success once the weather turns cooler.

Summer is the perfect time to plan ahead for your career. If you make the most of your summer, it can contribute to your future personal growth!

Volunteer

Do you have friends that are involved in a particular charity or a cause that is close to your heart? The summer months are a great time to give back and volunteer your time and energy in a way that both helps the community and bolsters your resume. Reach out to an organization of your choice and ask how you can help during your time away from school. In particular, look for opportunities that align with your major or career path.

One of my clients last summer was a Marketing major and was able to help a well-known charity with their social media campaign – something that looked amazing to prospective employers when she entered the job market.

Travel

Some of the greatest lessons I learned in college happened when I was miles away from my classrooms at Clemson. Whether it’s across the state or across the world, take time to visit somewhere you’ve never been before this summer. Learning how to interact with different cultures, plan a cross-country road trip, or budget for a trip to Europe are all great skills to take with you after college. They are also great stories to tell when you’re networking or interviewing for jobs down the road.

Not sure where to start? Tripit will help keep you organized, Packpoint solves all of your overstuffed luggage problems, and 1 Second Every Day will give you an awesome montage to remember your trip (and share with others).

Lead a Special Project

Last summer, I spoke with an MBA student who was extremely worried about starting her job search and differentiating herself from her peers. It seemed that everyone in her class was working at an internship over the summer and she had been so focused on her studies that she missed the deadline for most internships. After I reassured her that all was not lost, we developed a plan for her to target several businesses in her area and ask if she could run a special project for them over the course of 4-5 weeks. This way, she had something to add to her resume and had also made great connections within the business world in her city.

Most small to medium sized businesses would welcome help but often are too busy to actively seek interns. Create a target list of businesses that you’d be interested in working with and draft a proposal for a project that you would feel comfortable running independently. Not only will they be impressed with your initiative, but you’ll likely be able to take on more responsibility than the average intern.

Take a Class

I know, I know – the summer is the only time you’re NOT taking classes but hear me out. Most communities have opportunities for you to take classes that don’t require much of a time commitment and allow you to learn something that your college or major doesn’t offer. Learn how to cook, how to speak French, or how to perform CPR. Not only will you meet new people who share your interests, you’ll also be able to impress your friends with your new skills!

Can’t find anything interesting locally? There are plenty of inexpensive or free options online that allow you customize your schedule and pace. Try Coursera or Craftsy to start.

Network

The best thing you can do for your career in college is to make connections with people who can help you out through your job search and early part of your career. If you have some down time this summer, reconnect with old classmates, colleagues, teachers, or mentors. Make a goal to meet with at least 10 over the course of the summer and offer to buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for the opportunity to pick their brains.

You’ll be surprised at how many great conversations and opportunities will come up over the course of a few coffee dates. Plus, you’ll be able to hone your conversation skills that will serve you well throughout your career and build a strong network of mentors and advocates.  

These options will get you started but, in all honesty, the opportunities are endless! So don’t waste a minute of your time off this summer – Netflix will be there when you get back. You have places to go and things to do that will serve you well throughout your college and professional career. 

Do you have plans that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them!

Untitled design (3)Brette Rowley is a career contributor for The Young Hopeful and a Career Coach in Charleston, South Carolina. She can most often be found speaking to groups of young professionals or working with them one-on-one to build meaningful careers and land jobs they love. However, in her spare time she loves traveling, taking her dog Mellie to the beach, and tailgating for Clemson football games (or any sporting event, really). Connect with Brette on her site,Instagram, and Twitter!

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