Three ways to use your winter well if you don’t have an internship
There are a myriad of reasons why you might not be planning on doing an internship, a work shadowing experience, or a similar professional scheme this winter break: lack of means to support yourself in a city for a month, familial obligations, or even just plain burnout and a need to recharge after a fraught semester. While there’s no substitute for hands-on work experience, there’s equally no reason for your holidays to be a complete bust with regards to your professional development. There are plenty of things you can do wherever you find yourself over Christmas break to come back to St Andrews with a CV replete with transferable skills.
Start learning a language
I shouldn’t have to “sell” languages. The ability to communicate in another tongue is wickedly useful, opening you up for language required positions across the world and giving you an edge over other jobseekers at home. In a society as aggressively monolingual as Britain’s (or the United States, for that matter), an employee who can communicate effectively with foreign clients is an asset indeed. Besides, language learning can be a pleasant leisure activity, opening up a world of new media and travel opportunities. In brief, learning a new language is a no-brainer.
Whilst language learning was once the domain of a privileged few, the internet has made becoming a polyglot an ever more democratic endeavour. Online platforms like Duolingo and more language specific websites abound, as do opportunities to communicate with native speakers to access media in the language.
The main obstacle to picking up a new tongue is the initial learning curve, where the basics can be a bear. If one only had the time to devote to the bones of a language upfront, the meat of it would come comparatively easily afterwards. You, however, have a month, so use it; it won’t get you to fluency, but it’s an important first step.
Brush up your Excel skills
As much as we might like to jump right into the good stuff – sophisticated work that draws on grand theory puzzled out over whisky (neat), making for lively conversation at charity galas – chances are that our first forays into the job market will see us in positions with decidedly less sex appeal. While we are not doomed to a life of minutiae, minutiae is a reality in the first years of our career, and we should be prepared for it. The ability to tackle the nitty-gritty, quotidian tasks of a modern workplace is indispensable for an entry level career.
Unfortunately, many of us take perverse pride in technical incompetence, self-declared luddites revelling in our incomprehension of Excel formulae. The good news is that enlightenment is within our easy grasp with a plethora of resources available to help you finally tackle byzantine office software.
Of particular note is the Microsoft Office Specialist certification offered through CAPOD. After following an online course showing you the ropes in Excel, Word, Powerpoint, and Access, you will be able to take a series of exams that, if passed, will grant you an official certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist, Expert, or Master. Make no mistake, this is a valuable, recognised qualification that you can put on your resume; the RRP to take similar courses and sit the exams is normally £65, but through CAPOD you can take the online course and sit the exams for free.
Though it may take ritual sacrifice to an intervening pagan deity to secure an internship at a top law firm, your local charities are less fussed. Non-profits are always looking for extra hands to assist with new and ongoing projects, so contact a charity in your area to see what opportunities are available.
Volunteering is a vastly underrated CV booster. Depending upon what your particular volunteering choice entails, it may well provide you with opportunity to gain experience in event management, leadership, and a host of interpersonal skills like effective teamwork and customer relations. It also suggests a capacity for empathy and an understanding of social justice, qualities many employers will find appealing.
On the less mercenary side of things, it’s a good opportunity to get out and meet real, live human beings and perhaps get some fresh air. It’s also an occasion to do a decent turn for those who need one, so approach volunteer work with an appreciation for the good you’re supposed to be doing.