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Maximizing your break from studies

December 13, 2016 — 

Time off during a university program, like the upcoming Holiday Break and February’s Mid Term Break, is scheduled purposefully.  What you do with this time is completely up to you. Often breaks allow you relax and to regenerate your brain cells. It’s a great time to get social (catch up with friends, workout more, sleep, eat, etc.), or work extra shifts for your next tuition payment.

For those who are fortunate to have some extra time this year, we are going to propose something radically different. Use this time to intentionally learn new things about your intended career path, area of study and get career ideas. Whether you are 1st year or 4th this time can be used to learn more about yourself, what you like, dislike, what you’re good at, and how you can connect this to learning and the world of work. To start, if you are not clear what you want to do post-graduation, look at our new  Career Planning Workbook.

If you have an idea of what you are interested in, there are numerous techniques that work well:

  1. Take a pro for coffee: this would be an opportunity for you to ask questions and learn about the intangible parts of a job, industry or sector (a.k.a. informational interview). How do you do this? Start by asking your friends and family if they know of anyone, even an acquaintance, who may be working as X. Ask the family or friend to introduce you (which can be done through email). Once introduced, ask the person for a quick 15 – 20 minute meeting to learn about their career and career path. Then prepare for the meeting – here’s a list of possible questions to ask. Follow up with a heartfelt thank you. If you are unsure where to begin, start by asking to have an informational interview with a relative who has an interesting job. Be clear that you want to speak with them as a professional, not your favourite aunt or cousin. You will create connections that are sure to prove beneficial in the future.
  1. Volunteer/help out in the community: this is an opportunity to consciously develop skills, gain experience and network – all of which will be valuable in your future career. Look into ongoing volunteer opportunities as well as seasonal opportunities. Check out your area of interest using Volunteer Manitoba and the Manitoba Contact Guide. If you want to understand how to intentionally develop skills and to network, have a conversation with a career consultant during drop-in hours.
  1. Look for a summer Job: many employers will start posting positions for summer in the fall and early winter. Log into CareerCONNECT – a database with a plethora of information on summer, part-time and full-time work opportunities.  Also, register for the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) – federal and provincial programs where your skills can be matched with your interests to positions in the civil service. The key is to start looking early as programs such as Mini University will have application deadlines as early as February. Learn how to create an effective job search through our online Job Search Guidebook.
  1. Start your own business: Sound crazy? If you have a great idea or product, and just need a concentrated time to get it off the ground, then this is that time! Understand the commitment you will need to make once term starts again – this suggestion is for those entrepreneurial students with ideas running around inside their heads. If you are thinking of starting a business, during or after university, check out the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship through the university as well as Entrepreneurship Manitoba.
  1. Prep for the annual January Career Fair: the January Career Fair is scheduled for January 17 & 18; research the employers who will be attending. Pick 5 to 10 employers who interest you. Read their website. Seek answers to questions: What types of careers are common? Review the current staff. What have they done to move their career forward? Can you learn anything about the work culture from the website? These questions can guide what you ask at the Fair!  Also, log into CareerCONNECT to register for a career preparation workshop.

Regardless of what you do during your break – keep in mind that you have the opportunities to take part in activities that can positively affect your future. So take some time to sit on the couch, play some video games and gorge on home baking. And then do one thing that will help you intentionally learn something new about your career path, enhance your in-class learning, or generate career ideas. If you have more questions, stop by Career Services to speak with a career consultant during drop-in before we close for the break or check out the employment resources on our website.

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