How to “Professionalize” Your Winter Break

Do you have time over the winter to focus on your career? Learn how you can kickstart your career and professional development by utilizing your break to build skills and knowledge. Create an impressive foundation with our ideas below. Before we get started, it’s important to mention that the only non-professional thing you can do with your break is to ‘do nothing’. Take on what feels manageable, but some or even just ONE of the below is worthwhile.

Things to consider:

  • There is a lot of ambiguity about most things right now, but there are things under your control to continue your professional development. Something that you can do is choose to direct your focus on things that will benefit you and others.
  • Give yourself grace in the process. Things ARE tough, and we’re all still in the middle of a global pandemic. Don’t stress too much about taking advantage of EVERYTHING on this list.
  • All of these suggestions are meant to help you gain confidence in your professional direction and relationships that will benefit your future career goals.

What Employers Think:

  • They won’t be surprised to see professional development on your resume and will value it. 
  • Many have said that they would look positively upon professional development on a student’s document–it shows initiative and professional growth!

Activities with low effort and 1-2 days of commitment:

  • Update your professional documents and get them reviewed! These can include your resume as well as developing a cover letter template that you can use in future applications.  
  • Update your online presence. Did you know that the Bloch Career Center can help you develop your LinkedIn profile? In addition to helping you research alumni and industry professionals, we can also help you frame your experiences on your profile in a way that fits your career goals. 
  • Create and practice your elevator pitch! Be ready to introduce yourself, especially as networking events (both in-person and virtual!) become more common! Consider virtually practicing your introduction with a close friend. 

Activities with medium effort and 1-2 weeks of commitment:

  • Start networking strategically. Use resources like LinkedIn and UMKC’s Roo Network  to find alumni and industry professionals who can provide advice and insight into your professional goals. 
    • Focus on finding alumni/industry professionals that are interesting to you! Look by company, location, industry, function area, etc. 
    • Re-connect with people you already know! COVID-19 is a shared experience–check in about how your connections are working through this, and how the past year has impacted their professional life.  
    • Consider setting a goal of one connection every week – this can help you stay on track and keep yourself accountable. 
    • Keep track of these connections with some form of a database that you create. Where did you meet them? Why? When are you going to follow-up? This will be invaluable as your network grows and you want to return to a specific conversation after already speaking with 10 other professionals. Pro tip: Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets can be so helpful for this!
  • Get help with virtual interviewing. Connect with the Bloch Career Center to practice your interviewing skills, or get our top tips for navigating the interview process. Consider also using our exclusive resource, Big Interview, to practice and record answers to pre-determined interview questions and get feedback from the Bloch Career Center through email!
  • Conduct informational interviewing with alumni or industry professionals who are in roles that are interesting to you! Don’t be afraid to reach out–this is how business is done and it’s a very normal practice! The Bloch Career Center can help you develop a strong introduction email as well! Don’t let this stop you from trying! We will happily edit emails and give you a thumbs up. When doing informational interviews, consider thoughtful questions; use our guide and sample questions here

Activities with medium effort and 1 month of commitment:

  • Will you have a job over the winter break? Are there ways that you can get experience in areas related to your major or emphasis? Here are some examples: 
    • Accounting–Can you help track expenses and revenue for your local offices? What does spending look like? 
    • Analytics & Data – Can you track and analyze the sales for top products or services?
    • Finance — Can you research the general economic trends of your organization’s industry and analyze if your particular company fits those trends or not? Research your company’s stocks and think about how to include this in an interview setting for a finance position at your current company. 
    • Marketing–Can you help craft new social media content for your company’s online presence? 
    • Management & Human Resources– Are you able to review or revise training materials for your position or shadow a hiring process? 
    • Supply Chain Management–Are you able to help manage inventory, work with supply vendors, or help re-order supplies? 
  • Utilize a resource like Firsthand to read about your career industries of interest and journal about what you’ve learned. 
  • Blog or otherwise publish regularly the journal or aha moments you’re having. This can help hold you accountable, formalize your findings, and develop a professional brand documenting interest in your career field. Share your thoughts on LinkedIn!
  • Use a resource like Duolingo to brush up on a second language 
  • Consider adding a technical skillset, such as Microsoft Excel, Tableau, Photoshop, Quickbooks, or Bloomberg Terminal. Think about your industry and what could be relevant. 
    • Khan Academy and Code Academy are great options for technical classes
    • LinkedIn Learning is a fantastic hub for leadership and management skills
    • and are full of free classes across many business disciplines
  • Have an idea? Develop a business plan–Youtube has great tutorials on how to get started.

Strategies on How to Do This Well: 

  • Make sure to create a plan or timeline and develop action steps. Write those goals and steps down! 
  • Make check-ins with yourself to enhance your accountability to the career development pieces that don’t look like a formal internship. Find a Career Buddy to check in with about (hint: that can be a Bloch career advisor) 
  • Get comfortable with technology – it’s coming a larger part of recruiting and hiring!
  • Be realistic about your goals: develop milestones that are tangible and measurable. 

EXAMPLES for putting this on resume:

Independent Study & Projects – Winter Break 2021 

Specialized Training

  • Completed Java Basics and HTML intermediate courses through LinkedIn Learning

Career Development

  • Conducted 5 informational interviews with media industry experts to learn more about SEO, Google Ad words and topics relevant to the field
  • Practiced case studies with a small group of peers and had findings evaluated by a current expert; received positive feedback on solutions shared

Projects & Research

  • Contributed to Dr. ____’s research focused on media accuracy, fact-checking and misinformation basics by identifying news sources to investigate for common themes
  • Compiled an article and submitted to AdAge for review

Hopefully these tips can guide you this winter! Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Bloch Career Center with any questions!

By Ashley Nance
Ashley Nance Professional Development Manager