By DeVry University
You’ve finished up your exams and are likely ready for a well-deserved rest, but if you’re looking for something productive to do with the extra time on your hands, the holiday break can be a great time to build your resume and develop some job-relevant skills. Here are some tips on how to build a resume and expand your skill set at home over the holiday break.
Volunteering can be an excellent way to build up experience. Even if your volunteer work has nothing to do with your major, it can help you develop some excellent soft skills. Communication, leadership and teamwork are just a few things that many employers want to see, regardless of the industry.
Volunteer opportunities can run the gamut from pro bono work at large companies to general assistance at nonprofits to initiatives you create for yourself. For example, you might become a docent at a museum, walk dogs for a local shelter or teach a basic tech class at an assisted living facility. Focus on your personal areas of interest and look for something that makes you feel excited about the work you’re doing and the larger cause you’re supporting.
Learn a New Skill
The holiday break can be a terrific time to learn something new. You can enroll in an online class or sign up for a workshop in your area. If something that interests you isn’t offered in a formal course setting, don’t give up. You may be able to teach yourself by researching or watching YouTube tutorials on the topic.
If you’re searching for inspiration, don’t feel obligated to stick to skills within your desired career field. You never know where your learning might lead you. Maybe you’ll work beside your future employer in a cake decorating class or impress an interviewer with the fact that you decided to learn Mandarin on your own. Even if it never leads anywhere “productive,” learning for its own sake should not be discounted. Follow your passions and learn something that inspires you.
Build Your Portfolio
Many career fields ask for a portfolio of completed work. In some fields, having a portfolio might give you a competitive advantage. Either way, simply going through the process of creating a body of work in the field you want to go into will give you the opportunity to practice and to hone your skills.
If you’re a writer, spend some time writing. You might draft sample articles, poems, short stories, or even start on your first novel. If you’re a web designer, build some sample web pages or practice writing code. If you're an app developer, try to create a new concept for an app. The holiday break is a great time to experiment and strengthen your skills in your areas of interest.
Do Something Hands-on
Hands-on learning can help reinforce what you're studying in school. If you're studying engineering technology, for example, try experimenting with switches and routers. Or pick up a home robotics kit and see how many different tasks you can program your robot to do.
Of course, if the subject is new to you, you’ll want to start small. Ask someone you know who’s knowledgeable for help, read up on the subject or watch a few YouTube videos. Start with simple projects and work your way up as you gain experience and confidence.
Start a Business
If your career goals include becoming an entrepreneur, starting a small business can look great on a resume. It shows resourcefulness, organization and dedication to making things happen. The process of starting and running the business can teach you important lessons in areas as diverse as management, finance, marketing or production.
It doesn’t have to be a huge business to be worth your while. In many cases, you can turn your area of study into a small business. Look into freelancing for websites or in local publications or offer your services to small companies. A quick Google search can give you plenty of ideas on ways to connect with potential customers.
Develop Good Habits
Although new habits might not directly impact your resume, they can help you out in the long run. Most students have busy lives and establishing good habits during the holiday break can help you find more balance throughout the year.
New habits to develop can include:
- Journaling: Some people like to keep a gratitude journal in which they detail all the things they’re thankful for every day. Others prefer to keep a therapeutic journal where they write out their problems to work through their emotions. Whatever journaling style you like, what’s most important is maintaining the habit of writing on a regular basis.
- Get on a better sleep schedule: When you’re busy, sleep might be the first thing you set aside. But good sleep is restorative, helping your body and mind stay strong. During the holiday break, make a commitment to building a better sleep schedule that you can keep when you return to school.
- Eat a healthier diet: You don’t have to give up junk food altogether (especially during the holidays!), but trying to be more mindful of what you’re eating while striving for a good balance of nutrients not only gives you energy, but helps your mind and body perform at their best.
- Get Organized: Organization is an important skill. Depending on your job, you might find yourself balancing multiple clients, projects, documents or other materials. The holiday break is a great time to practice developing your time management and organizational skills. Start by organizing your work or study space. Clean out your desk, if you have one. Decide what it is you want to accomplish during the break and block out the necessary time on your calendar. Practice breaking large tasks into small, manageable goals. Keep a running to-do list and check things off as you complete them.
- Do More Reading: Reading can help build your vocabulary and keep your mind engaged. Look for books on topics that interest you or that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, such as marketing, ancient Rome, or how your favorite big company got its start. You never know when the knowledge you gain might come in handy. Of course, reading for pleasure is also encouraged. Don’t be afraid to try writers, titles and even genres you’re not familiar with. You might just end up expanding your horizons and discovering some new favorites.
- Remember to Take Breaks: Don’t get so busy with productive tasks that you forget to take time to relax. Rest is an important part of working toward success. Go out with friends, have nightly or weekly dinners with your family, spend a weekend alone in the country or just drive around and look at Christmas lights nearby. Taking some time to rest and recharge is a skill you will need throughout your life, so you might as well start practicing now.
Update Your Resume
Put your new skills and experience to work by carving out some time to build a new resume or give your existing one a refresh. Google "resume templates" to get some ideas on how to lay it out and be sure to include all the soft and hard skills you’ve worked on during break.
While you’re working on your resume, look at your cover letter to see where you can make improvements. While it’s true that you should customize your cover letter (and your resume) for each potential employer, it never hurts to draft a template to work from rather than writing a brand-new letter each time. Make sure it builds on what you’ve included in your resume and explain in a few short paragraphs why you believe you’re a good fit for the position.
Ready to Build Your Resume?
At DeVry University, we offer a variety of certificates and degrees in seven areas of study, many of which are offered in both on-campus and online learning structures. From academic tutoring1 to career coaching, we’ll do everything we can to support you as you take the first steps toward preparing to pursue the career you want. Our classes start every 8 weeks. Contact DeVry today to get started.
1Each student is allotted a set number of hours of tutoring per academic session through www.Tutor.com (available 24/7). Additional tutoring services are also available through www.DeVryTutors.com.