“The work never ends, but college does.”–Tom Petty

My article was originally featured on the USA TODAY COLLEGE website (By: Jen Glantz)

You’ve made it to that time of the year where stringing your legs over the couch, watching reruns of shows on Bravo and overusing your thumbs to seek new levels on video games is finally acceptable. It’s winter break and while it’s OK to indulge in some much-needed R&R, why not get a jump-start on boosting your future career?

It hit me right before I threw down my backpack and started to bury my textbooks with piles of clothes that my final winter break of college had to be meaningful. Up ’til then, I spent my college career clocking in hours at internships, writing endless research papers and using all of my spare time entertaining members of various clubs of which I loved being a part. But now, I had only a couple of months before I would cross over to the “dark side” of a 9-to-5 life and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a game plan.

I started to tango with panic and spent my winter break chipping away at my resume and researching for what job I wanted to get after college (and how to get it).

There’s no better feeling than prancing across that stage at graduation knowing that you have feelers out there for potential jobs or at least the resources and preparation to get you closer to the job of your wildest dreams. Here are five tips to help you start now:

1. Short-term internships

Perhaps there is a job or a company you have been eager to get your claws in and spend a few weeks at, but you’ve been swamped with midterms, your on campus job or your role as president of Habitat for Humanity. Contact that company before winter break begins and see if you can come in for a few weeks to help out and lend a hand. If all goes well, that short-term internship could carry over for the spring semester and, fingers crossed, potentially land you a full-time job after graduation.

2. Shadow a job

Say you have always wanted to know what it is like to be a buyer for a clothing store or a high-energy stock broker, but you are majoring in political science or something polar opposite from that job you often think about maybe doing. Contact local professionals and ask to spend a day or two shadowing them so that you can gain a glimpse into what that career entails before you make a drastic change or continue to throw darts at the idea if you still don’t really know what you want to do.

3. Clean up social media

While you’re lounging around updating your Instagram with photos of the glistening beach and your Facebook statuses with gleeful diction about finally being able to do nothing, take the time to clean up your social media accounts. Permanently delete any photos that you would not want your grandma to see and erase any information that could shine a negative light on you when employers type your first and last name into Google.

4. Give your resume a makeover

Once you graduate college, your resume will become equally as important as your diploma. It will represent you and will be your first impression with employers. Spend some time organizing and executing the “who, what, where, why, when,” of each job and internship you have had over the last few years and then, when you return to school, show it to your professors and most trusted comrades for feedback and a guarantee that your resume is representing your total package.

5. Create a portfolio

My mother always taught me to never go over to someone’s house empty handed and that compelling statement is still true when we strut our stuff into a job interview. Bring them something — and I’m not talking about a Whitman’s sampler or a bouquet of roses. I’m talking about a portfolio of your work, copies of your resume and any other supplement that you believe will help you better educate potential employers about your dedication and your experience.

So, while you are seeking shade under a palm tree or stuffing yourself silly with chocolate-chip pancakes, this winter break, start drafting your post-grad plan of action and if that means starting from scratch, that’s OK, as long as you start somewhere.

I’m Jen Glantz. I’ve been a published writer for over 13 years, spilling my words into magazines (ranging from style to scuba diving), newspapers, websites and even this one time, a speech, for someone who didn’t speak a word of English. What drives my words, my site, my writing, is the power of relating to people. I find that many people, especially young girls, feel so alone and quite often they feel embarrassed. I want to shatter those feelings! I want them to read what I write and understand that it’s okay to be a little outside of the box, but most importantly, that it is okay to just be who they are.

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