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Photo: Flazingo Photos / Creative Commons licence

Winter break is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel after the end of exams. Once the presents have been unwrapped and that awkward, sluggish week between Christmas and New Year’s braved, the end of another year arrives. Life goes back to normal, and students are left asking, “Now what am I supposed to do with all the free time on my hands?” Surely the easy answer to the question would be to just laze around and get some much needed relaxation, but in the long run, nothing can be gained from this.

If, like me, you find yourselves with a lot of time at hand, this could be the time for self-discovery and introspection. In this period, a smart way to prepare yourself for the future would be to update your CV and draft a cover letter to perfection. For some, winter break is the opportunity to begin writing a CV, having successfully procrastinated thus far by citing coursework and other term time tasks.

After improving my CV extensively over the holiday, I can confidently say keep it short (no more than 2 sides of an A4 sheet) and highlight the key skills that may differentiate you – perhaps a language that is highly sought after or the diversity of interests you have. Be sure not to list too many interests: Choose a select few that you were particularly committed to to avoid appearing superficially involved. Don’t hesitate to tailor your CV to the type of programme you are keen on partaking in – this shows potential recruiters that you have read through the job description and are highlighting the character traits essential to the job. A seemingly trivial point, but do watch out for word choice. Choose words that hold positive connotations and active words rather than passive. Finally, choose references (2 is a good number) to validate your experiences and skills.

Now that the issue of writing a generalized CV has been addressed, the next step of the process is to start applying for internship programmes for the seemingly endless summer holidays. If you already have a winter break internship that has also secured you a summer internship, congratulations. But for the majority of us who have no idea what they want to do in life, this is the chance to do some research, narrow down the scope of potential career paths and apply for internships. Increasingly, work experience and internships are becoming essential to gaining graduate jobs. Look at lists of companies within your selected fields and see if they offer “spring insights” (for sub-honours students). While many companies advertise their internship programmes, some internships can be acquired through “speculative applications” whereby a prospective intern sends in a copy of their CV to the company in the absence of an application portal/process. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the alumni networks on LinkedIn and SaintConnect.

These are just some of the things you can do to be productive this winter break. Oh, and if you are being asked to leave an email address, which will probably be the case, choose an appropriate one – 76% of CVs with inappropriate email addresses are ignored, so make sure you don’t add to the pile of ignored CVs.

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