Winter break is just around the corner.
While you could devote your winter break from college to relaxing and enjoying free time with family and friends, if you're forward-thinking, you might want to focus on building your career and taking the next steps to finding a job with lucrative benefits.
Rather than crashing at your parents' house and wasting productive hours, start looking for a temporary holiday job or winter internships. These jobs build new skills, provide networking opportunities, and put a little jingle in your pocket for the holidays.
So if you need a little extra cash this holiday season, now is the time to be aggressively applying and interviewing for those holiday jobs and winter internships. Most of these seasonal winter jobs are temporary and will end by mid-January. However, if you decide you enjoy the job and prove yourself during the holiday season, you have a good chance of being hired permanently after graduation.
Follow these tips to find the best seasonal job or winter internship that will build your professional reputation.
Think perks, not earnings
If you're looking for a grand money-making adventure, a seasonal winter job is not your gig. While holiday jobs are in strong supply, the real blunder is the pay. Most seasonal jobs and winter internships, with the exception of some managerial roles, pay barely above minimum wage — and some are unpaid. Don't let this cloud your judgment. Wages aren't the end-all when negotiating benefits during the interview process. Instead, search for positions that make your work worthwhile.
Also, consider your interests. Do you love to read or collect novels? Some bookstores offer discounts to seasonal workers. Technology junkies would love working at Best Buy, since explaining technical specs to non-techy customers helps build communication skills, and many companies provide discounts there as well. Discounts aren't the only perks. For example, working at PetSmart or Petco provides a chance to play with animals and enjoy an overall pleasant environment.
Make the training your priority
While adding a little extra jingle to your pocket is great, keep in mind this isn't the only reason you're taking on extra work during the holidays. On-the-job training is just as crucial as the paycheck you receive, and you should ask the hiring manager about skill building on the job.
Look for the hidden gems. Not all training comes from a classroom or during orientation. Photography students could learn valuable insight from shoppers looking for cameras by talking to them about their photography needs and picture ideas. Marketing students planning a career in entertainment would find a few quick skills at a record store through looking at shoppers' insights into what music they love and why, providing valuable marketing ideas for future clients and employers.
Also, don't forget about job shadowing. Explain to the hiring manager that you are using your seasonal winter job to learn new skills, and ask them for opportunities to shadow professionals in the company. Sometimes this may not work. After all, executives and directors are busiest during the holidays. Yet, you may find a lower-level manager willing to show you around.
Work on your computer skills
Technology is key to nearly every career path. Whether you're a photographer or medical student, a good deal of your work will encompass software and computer systems. Look for a winter internship or seasonal job that will expand on these skills. Many offices look for temporary clerical aides during the holidays to help complete year-end filings. If these jobs aren't available in your area, consider approaching the hiring manager a few months earlier and ask about unpaid internship opportunities.
Don't limit yourself to computers. Many industries use their own technology to get the job done. Look for seasonal or part-time positions with retailers who sell these systems. For example, graphic designers who already have strong computer skills would benefit from working with a camera retailer. They can learn the specs and functions used to create the images they manipulate.
Related: 5 Tips to Help Students Prepare for Their Careers
Consider an unpaid winter internship
Yes, we know; working for free isn't ideal. Who wants to spend their holiday break doing work for free? Yet, here's why you should want to take this opportunity. It's easier to get an unpaid winter internship versus a paid or stipend internship. While not every company lists internships during the holiday season, most employers are open to discussing the prospect. Ask your college career counselor if they know any businesses willing to provide internships, or you can send your proposal to a few companies in your area.
Again, you may ask, why should I work for free? Internships offer unique opportunities that other, paid seasonal work can't touch. The position provides you with the chance to actually work for a boss in your field and strengthens the skills learned in class. These opportunities also build strong company protocol skills, including dress codes, professional speech, and time management. Internships also provide your first chance working with professionals in a team environment.
Volunteering has its advantages as well
On the same token as unpaid winter internships, volunteer positions are just as valuable. Nonprofits always need volunteers to help with internal tasks, especially costly professionals who help with the office management, financial, and marketing aspects of the organization. Nonprofits simply don't have the resources to hire attorneys, public relations specialists, or graphic designers because most of their resources are used to take care of people, pets, and other underrepresented causes. Working with charities not only builds professional skills, but you are helping make the world a better place.
Send resumes and proposals to charities in October, giving leaders a chance to read your qualifications. Applying for a professional volunteer job takes a little more time than an internship or temporary work because the organization's time is limited, and usually don't have the opportunity to respond quickly.
Take time to rub elbows with the boss
Whether you choose a volunteer position, winter internship, or seasonal winter job, take advantage of the opportunity. Rub elbows with the boss. Offer to take on a few more tasks, or see if they need help with a project. On your first day at the job, introduce yourself to the boss, explain why you took a seasonal position, and ask if you can reach out to them for advice or questions. Most supervisors welcome the opportunity to help college students grow. On the other hand, don't lean on them too much. You are there to do a job, and they don't have the time to answer every question you may have.
Communicating with other employees and customers also reaps many benefits. Reach out to other departments, join some of your peers during lunch, or spend a few extra minutes with a customer. You never know who you will meet. It could be your next job opportunity.
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