How summer fun can help you figure out your life

By Anita Manuel, Program Manager

Hopefully, as you read this, you are in the midst of enjoying a relaxing and fun filled summer.  But, did you know that all that fun you are having is also a great way to gain insight into how you want to build your future? Here are some ideas for making the most of your summer and combine good times with personal growth:

1. Take a road trip!

rtnThere’s nothing better than getting together with some good friends and hitting the open road for an unknown destination or adventure. Taking a few days off to explore a new place and meet new people can open up your mind to possibilities and ideas that are inspiring.  Be intentional on your trip and seek out people who you find interesting and interview them!  Listen to their stories and ask them for advice on how they built their career and life.  You’d be surprised by how open people can be if you politely ask to conduct an informational interview with them.  Need some more inspiration?  Check out  Roadtrip Nation for road trip videos, interviews and ideas.

 2. Make a “love list.”

I don’t necessarily mean a list of all your summer crushes (although that might be interesting as well), but rather a list of your favorite summer activities. Taking inventory of the things which make you happy or feel fulfilled are factors that need to be included in the life and career that you create for yourself.  As you make this list it will be easier to choose a major/field, career path or develop a game plan for what is essential to experience in your life.  Not sure how to start this list?  Here are some reflections questions love_500x500that can help you get started:

  • What activities make you feel like time just flies by? When you lose track of time, you are most likely in “the zone,” meaning you are doing something that encompasses you completely, something you “love.
  • What activities make you feel like the minutes crawl by?  What made you feel bored or uninspired?  These are clues on things you might NOT want to do in the future.

3. Read, Read, Read  

What’s on your summer reading list?  Reading anything related to your interests is a great way to gain new knowledge but also to stay up to date with trends in your field.  Try to read a mix of topics—some that relate to your interests, career and those that are pure leisure.

Let’s say you come back to start the new semester and you start applying to internships.  You are getting ready for an interview and you’ve prepared for all the typical questions about your skills and experience, but then the interviewer asks you to “tell me about yourself…”  What is going to set you apart from all the other applicants who have the same exact skills and education that you have?

summer-reading-533Perhaps, after outlining your main interests as it relates to the position you also mention that in your spare time you like to relax by reading comics and this summer you just finished the Batman series and it was awesome!  By adding this tidbit, you’ve just made a personal connection with your interviewer.  They may love comics too; they may find it refreshing that in addition to being a hard working student with the right skills you also seem to be imaginative etc. etc.  If anything, it’s something a little more interesting than what every other candidate said, because it’s unique to you.

Remember, this will only work if you happen to have the right skills and experience.  Otherwise, be sure to throw in that you have also been reading a few articles/books related to the job or industry because that shows passion and true interest.  If you have nothing at all to read, then check out this list of books that can help with your career aspirations.

4.  Stay Connected

With all of the parties, picnics, and family reunions that you’ve enjoyed so far this summer, it’s likely that:summer-bbq-fun_300-252x300

a) You’ve met some new people

b) You’ve talked to lots of friends and relatives

c) You’ve grown your Facebook friend list exponentially

Great!  But, be sure to take your networking a step further.  That’s right, you have been networking this summer and didn’t even realize it.  And this is how you make it count…STAY CONNECTED!  Don’t let these relationships wash away with the last days of summer.  Create a LinkedIn account and invite your contacts (friends and family count) to your professional network (LinkedIn) as well as your social network (Facebook).  Be sure to let them know what you are up to and what kinds of jobs or internships you are looking for.  Sending a friendly update or check-in is a great way to maintain the new network of people that you developed this summer.

Another easy way to engage your network is by asking for some brainstorming help.  Here are some exploration questions that you can ask or send out to a group:

1. If you had to name my top three strengths/skills what would they be? Can you think of a time that you saw me use/demonstrate this strength/skill?  (this is great information to help you prepare resumes, interviews or exploring related fields of interest)

2. I’m interested in XYZ career, do any of you have ideas or tips on how to meet someone in this field or how to find an internship/job in this field?

3. I’m looking for some inspiration in my career, what things get you excited about your work or keep you motivated in your career?

Any insight that you gain from your network will not only help you in figuring what you want to do, but will also keep you connected in a way that is productive.  Always remember to thank people for their tips and advice and ask how you can return the favor.

So keep on enjoying these last days of summer.   Use this time for fun, rest and relaxation to help you get excited for the next step in your career journey.

anita_manuel[1]Anita has been a career professional in higher education for the past 11 years.  She is dedicated to helping clients create meaningful lives and provides advising on career related topics.  She also specializes in development of creative programs to support career education.

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