Be the best you can be: Use spring break to prepare for success
Successful people often say that the road to success is paved by doing something you love, taking chances and acting on your ideas. With spring break coming up at Texas State, there’s no better time to set yourself up for a bright future when you’re not soaking up the sunshine.
Whether you’re getting in the groove of your freshman year or spreading your wings to fly in May or December, getting prepared for the future can only play to your advantage. Spring break gives you time to investigate and explore your career interests, by job shadowing or gaining new experiences, making it easier than ever to get up and go on your career path.
Allison Birk, a career advisor at Texas State Career Services, offers tips for turning your spring break opportunities into career success.
Why work on career prep during spring break? According to Birk, taking a break from break-time activities for your career shows initiative and commitment, two traits employers often seek in candidates.
Besides using university resources, students can take four steps to their advantage during spring break, including job shadowing, volunteering, networking and informational interviewing. Read more about each activity with advice for different classifications below.
1. Job Shadowing
“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.” (Ben Stein)
So you’ve chosen your major and you’re on your way to a career. What now? While enjoying coursework is great, knowing your niche in the field you’ve chosen — and when to change course — can help you immensely in the future. According to Birk, gaining first-hand experience through job shadowing is one of the best ways to learn if the career you have chosen is right for you.
“Job shadowing can be whatever the student wants it to be,” Birk says. “It can be going in just for an informational interview and then sticking around for an hour just to see what happens, or it could be coming in from 8 to 5 — like, ‘Put me to work, I’m all about it.’”
If you’re a freshman and are still figuring out if your major is right for you, Birk suggests going to the Career Services offices on the fifth floor of the LBJ Student Center. There you can do an evaluation of your strengths, weaknesses and overall interests as well as try out a few job shadowing opportunities to gain insight on your major or minor.
Find available job shadowing opportunities for all majors here.
“Absolute identity with one’s cause is the first and greatest condition of successful leadership.” (Woodrow Wilson)
A key to success is having the ability to initiate change in your environment, which can be developed through volunteering in your community. According to Birk, volunteering — while a perfect résumé and skill-builder — can become a lifelong passion for students of all classifications if they take the time, such as over spring break.
“I would suggest students to consider volunteering,” Birk says. “It doesn’t have to be a big, long commitment. It can be a day or every day over spring break. You can definitely put it on your résumé, but you don’t have to do it just for that. If you develop a passion for it, it can be something you do one or two days a month from now until forever.”
Find local volunteer opportunities, including a Volunteer Match service, here.
“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do.” (Tony Robbins)
While not essential to gaining a degree, networking with experts in your field is a great way to get the lowdown on your future career. Developing networking skills is not an easy task; however, it’s an extremely important asset to have, Birk says.
“Networking is not a big commitment,” Birk says. “You have the whole week off, so go to three events three different nights, or however you want to play it out. You never know who you’ll meet and how long those relationships will last, or when you’ll meet up with that person again.”
So how do you go about meeting like-minded professionals? The good news is, they’re not hard to find. Cities all over the country have networking events in all fields — from industrial engineering happy hours to public relations bowling — which are easy to track online or on Facebook, Birk says. Spring break events, such as the South by Southwest festival in Austin, are also great opportunities to meet lots of people.
4. Informational Interviewing
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” (Winston Churchill)
You don’t have to be Katie Couric to get answers about some of your biggest career concerns, and getting it “straight from the horse’s mouth” — so to speak — is always a plus. According to Birk, picking the brain of a professional in your field can provide a world of insight.
“As nerve-racking and as scary as it can be, it is for your benefit to do an informational interview, especially if you are apprehensive about the direction that you’re going, or thinking about changing your major,” Birk says. “Do your research about different jobs that people have in your major and see if you love it or hate it and maybe change it up a little bit.”
With a wide variety of resources to use at Texas State and elsewhere — including a Jobs4Cats contact list to a wide variety of professionals as well as professors’ connections — conducting one or two interviews during time off is both easy and hugely beneficial in refining your future pathway.
“It’s just more ammo in your pocket,” Birk says. ”It’s that dependability, reliability and initiation that you took to do that and to step out on your own when you’re not required to in a class. It will come around, and it can only be used in your court and in your favor.”
To find more resources for your career, go to Texas State’s Career Services website.