Perhaps my most frequent question to students during the spring is some variation on “What are you doing this summer?” The responses to this question range from a number of shrugs to short replies like, “just work,” and “take a class.” (In this economy, I tell students never say “just” in front of the word “work”; they’re lucky to have a job, as I am quick to point out.) However, there are many other things besides a student’s paid gig which can enrich his or her background, and I encourage students to plan one or two of those things this summer.
Students in most majors can begin gaining some experience related to that major by volunteering at a non-profit. Business and Communication majors can volunteer to help with marketing projects for the youth group at their church. Those with ambitions in the health sciences can accumulate some real-world experience by volunteering just one or two days a week in a hospital or other health care facility. In this way students demonstrate their seriousness about seeking a career in which they wish to help others while gaining some experience of the field. Every health care major will expect students to develop their own medical experience so that future employers or graduate school admissions directors know that these students don’t think medicine is practiced as it is on TV.
Indirect Field Work
With education majors I do stress the importance of using the summer to teach children in non-academic settings—summer and day camps, in recreational centers. This sort of experience allows college students to develop a set of skills linked to supervising students in out-of-class activities. During my high school teaching career, I met many faculty who got their job because they possessed some additional skills and experience—they could coach the track team, advise the yearbook staff, or direct the school play. This sort of experience will help graduates get the job they want when they graduate.
If your student is still an undeclared major, curious about what minor(s) to choose, or just wants a clearer idea of what a workday is like in his or her chosen field, summer is a great time to shadow someone in that position. It’s just one day, and it will give your student perspective, clarity, and incentive to work hard.
If your student is interested in a career that might cause him or her to identify with particular places or types of locations, the summer is a good time for him or her to enrich background knowledge and spur on inspiration by investigating those places. If your student is an Environmental Science major, perhaps s/he should tour a few organic farms in your local area. If your student is a FLIS major, perhaps s/he can do some great intellectual exploring on that family trip to Mexico.
If students need any ideas or direction concerning ways to develop their resumes this summer through employment, volunteerism, course work, lab research, travel, or other areas, suggest that they speak with us in the ARC or with Ann Zeman in the Career Center.