While many recent grads have spent the summer hustling for jobs, completing internships and taking summer classes, I have a hunch that others have acquired deep tans, toned abs and a slew of ticket stubs from summer concerts. While I celebrate your right to slack off during your summer (and I'm a bit jealous of this liberty), you may find a summer of pool parties and margaritas is a disadvantage when you start hunting for a job or internship this fall.
If you haven't had the most professionally proactive summer, here are some tips for what to do about it:
1. Give yourself some credit. Lots of things count as experience that you might not realize. For instance, retail jobs, babysitting or working for your parents' business can be described in ways that demonstrate your drive, leadership and professional skills. Did you manage your time and money? Were your sales in the top percentage of all employees? Did you learn how to work with different types of people? All of these are invaluable workplace skills that can be mentioned on a resume or in a cover letter.
2. Acknowledge if you needed rest. If you had a rough year leading up to the summer months, it's okay to characterize your summer as a time of restoration. Whether you got back in shape, learned to cook or perfected the latest yoga pose, these methods of self-renewal are good uses of your time. I do worry that your generation is under a lot of pressure and the stress that follows can be unhealthy in the long term. Just be sure to use your newfound energy to propel yourself this fall.
3. Assess your natural tendencies. What do you do regularly that has professional value? Reading and exercise require focus and persistence. Volunteering demonstrates drive and dedication. Learning new technologies (yes, this includes your iPhone 3GS) shows curiosity and intelligence. Even coordinating reunions among high school or college friends requires organization, attention to detail and people skills. All of these are examples you can cite when a job interviewer asks for examples of your skills and abilities.
4. Realize that you probably networked more than you think. Pick your brain for every person you met over the past few months. Think of every mom or dad you talked to while babysitting at the pool. Remember interesting conversations with friends and friends of friends that may have relevance to your job search. Each time you meet someone new, your network expands multitudes because that person's network becomes yours too. Make a list of everyone you met this summer and keep in contact with these people on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn so you can keep in touch as your job search progresses.
5. Make the most of these last few days. If you have done absolutely nothing all summer, you still have a precious few days left. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Pick up a business best-seller (and read it). Join LinkedIn if you haven't already. Email 10 professional contacts (past employers, family friends, college professors) sending your best wishes for fall and letting them know you're looking for a job.
September is a great time for new beginnings, so no matter what you did this summer, now is the time to gear up for an active and successful fall season!