The 4 R's of Holiday Break for College Students
This article was written Dec. 2016, but still rings true for students as a great consideration / preparation tool for an amazing spring semester!
At the end of the semester, I set up one on one meeting times with each of my students where they must come prepared with an updated resume and a printed out “professional strategic plan” that encompasses an idea for the rest of their college career and start of their professional lives.
While many students struggle with this (which is understandable), it’s been an incredible opportunity to dive in further with them, and help to fully understand where their pain points, their fears, and their nervousness may be, and work together to individualize a plan for them moving forward.
As I finished up those meetings this week, there was a constant theme that continued to be present throughout.
“I’m not sure what I want to do, and I’m nervous about how to navigate the potential job market, so... What do I do? Where do I even start? This is really overwhelming..."
Now, we talk about this throughout their college career. They are required to meet with the campus career services office and other resources to assist in this process, but it’s still an extremely tough thing to fully understand because it’s often so unique to the individual, and their personalities & passions.
With that being said, as I reflected further while traveling with students to Chicago for a a few site visits this week, there were four key elements that I found myself circling back to in the discussions.
These "key elements / action steps" are ones I wholeheartedly believe should be a key focus throughout their entire career, with an definite high regard and major focus during any break where they have some “additional time.”
It just so happened all of these items started with R, so welcome to the 4 R’s for College Students Holiday Break.
I try to give my students a lot of personal credit, as after meeting with them and really getting to know them, some of these students have more on their plate than I ever could have handled.
Full & part time jobs / internships, classwork out the wazoo, athletic team participation, campus organizations, families, children in some cases, & the list goes on & on.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how some of them do it, and do it as well as they do. They’re an inspiration. But they need to take a rest. Not a long one, but long enough to breathe and recharge their batteries. It’s hard to do anything really well when the tank is on E, and at the end of the semester, I see most tanks being bypassed with direct coffee and red bull consumption. I swear it seeps out of their eyes when you look at them.
I think one major area where college students need to continue to work is on their ability to reflect and evaluate where they are, where they want to go, and what they need to do to get there. Ask some questions:
What went well, and not so well, this semester? Why? (In class, with relationships, with professional outreach, with internships / jobs, etc)
Were there any key items (both academically & experiential) that I found I was extremely passionate about?
Were there any interactions that I had that really stick out that I need to consider further?
Where did I start, and where am I now with my KSA Development? (Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities) What holes do I have?
It's hard to know where you're going & how you're going to get there if you don't know where you've been? Take some time and really reflect on the process thus far.
One of my major pieces of advice to students is that they need to spend a large amount of time doing research on potential jobs / internships that may interest them. Google, indeed, company websites…. all provide opportunities to dive in further to job descriptions. Too often students spend a "little" bit of time (which they seem to think is is a lot), figuring out what's even out there.
This is where the important part comes in – when students pull those job descriptions and start to look at the desired KSA's & qualifications (required & preferred), they must start to consider what boxes they can check off, how they are articulating those on resumes, digital profiles, etc., and then ultimately what holes they have.
Are most entry level jobs that interest you asking that you have some specific skill that you don’t have, or aren’t getting in your current classes?
How can you bridge that gap?
Are they asking for a certain level of experience?
What does that mean, and how are you going to do fill that bucket?
The research component takes a lot of time, and I often think students get frustrated in the process, which is why I believe it’s so important to rest & reflect before you begin so you have a clear direction of the purpose and importance.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from my good buddy @coytecooper:
“Nearly all aspects of life where you hope to be successful are directly influenced by your ability to build solid relationships”
Moving forward in life and achieving the high levels of success that most everyone wishes to achieve, I believe, comes down to doing things really well while treating people really well. This process starts early, and it’s so important for students to work to build genuine relationships with all different types of people. From a professional standpoint, Christmas break as well as other breaks throughout the year offer additional time to reach out, set up informational interviews, job shadows, phone conversations, coffee & lunch dates, etc. etc.
BUT, it’s not just about gaining information. It’s about learning and building relationships, and then following up and figuring out how you can continue to engage. I often relate it to sales, as I wholeheartedly believe almost everything in life has a sales basis….. It’s not just about what you’re doing on the day of the interaction / sale, it’s what you’re doing the other 364 days to engage and build a meaningful relationship.
It’s not enough to just fill the buckets of academics & activities at the college level anymore. You must truly focus on:
ADDING VALUE, BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS, AND CREATING OPPORTUNITIES.
What are you waiting for?
Scott Grant is the President / CEO of Triple Threat Leadership, LLC,www.triplethreatleadership.com; Mentor of @TheOiler10, and Assistant Professor of Business at The University of Findlay.
Contact Scott at email@example.com; @MrGrant1161, @3ThreatLeaders.