College Compass: How to make this 5-month summer break productive

College Compass is a bi-weekly blog that aims to help students navigate the highs and lows of college life.

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This past fall semester was quite literally a nightmare for me. In addition to an 18-credit semester, I worked the 5 a.m. shift at Starbucks three days a week, babysat in the afternoon four days a week and spent the rest of my time catching up on assignments and applying for study abroad programs and summer internships.

During this incredibly hectic period of my life, I would dream of a break where I could catch my breath without my life crumbling. I wanted nothing more than time for myself without the pressure of deadlines and my next shift beginning. 

While I certainly didn’t expect for that time to come under these circumstances, I know that I will never get this kind of free time allotment again. After all, once I graduate, I’ll have enough student loans to keep myself occupied for the next 20 years.

I know I’m not the only one who feels disappointed that my summer internship was canceled — as a rising senior, this summer was going to be a vital step in my future career. For graduating college students, I’m sure the uncertainty of the job market is even more stressful and alarming. 

With the drastic increase in unemployment, many students are dreading this five-month summer of nothingness. But just because hiring practices have slowed down does not mean that this summer will automatically become an unproductive waste of time. In fact, without imminent pressure to get a job and the next four months without academic obligations, this time can actually turn into quite the opposite. 

While an internship or a job would be nice, companies are well aware of the current situation and will adjust their expectations of candidates in light of this. But instead of throwing a pity party, employers will be more inclined to hire employees that used this time in a productive way. Instead of moping — which I find tempting myself — here are four ways to develop yourself and build your resume in a way that will help you get ahead in the job market when it revives. 

Develop a portfolio 

This is the perfect time to invest your time into a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Whether it’s art, photography or writing, now would be the most ideal time to devote yourself to that passion. This will not only feel self-rewarding, but will give future employers something tangible that exemplifies your skill, rather than just a few lines on a resume. 

Take on a new skill

In addition to improving your resume, improving yourself is an equally tangible project in this climate — and luckily, you can do both. Perhaps you can learn how to knit, paint or do yoga. Or, you could also look for ways to fill in the space at the bottom of your resume in the “skill” section. Perhaps learning a language on Rosetta Stone could be a fun challenge. I’ve always struggled with technology, so I’m going to try and master Microsoft and Adobe Suite this summer. 

Network

Just because students and recent graduates haven’t had any luck finding a job does not mean you should stop trying. In fact, you should use this time to build your network since you’ll have plenty of time to start conversations and email chains. By spending 30 minutes a day staying in touch with employers and reaching out to new ones, students and graduates will put themselves on employers’ radar when companies start hiring again. This is a low-effort and minimal time commitment that will go a long way.

Take summer classes 

For those who find themselves stuck in boredom, summer classes always remain a viable option that can provide structure and purpose for students. I have decided to use this time to stock up on summer classes and graduate a semester early. Plus, since Pitt classes are now online, students can take classes at home without spending extra money for summer housing. If students want something less rigorous and more leisurely, Yale now offers free open classes for a selection of their introductory courses. 

I know that my own motivation has certainly decreased during this time. Since every day feels the same, it’s definitely tempting to waste the days away on Netflix. But giving yourself a schedule and staying proactive during this time will not only help your future prospects, but give you more of a purpose during these long days.

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