The time between the end of the fall semester and the beginning of spring semester just got a little longer… what will you do in the “winterim”?! Aside from logging quality time with sleep, recovering from Zoom fatigue, and catching up on your favorite Netflix shows (all very important, too!), you might plan to use some of the time to focus on career and life planning. The Career Development Office (CDO) has been busy planning a variety of workshops and events that you can opt in to, as well as compiling a wealth of ideas and suggestions for you to make the most of your extended winter break (when well-meaning family members ask what you are planning to do with all that time away from school, you will have a good answer!). Check out our Events Calendar and the events highlighted in the sidebar to the right to learn more about all of the great programming on tap for our Winterim Wonderland Series, and read on for additional ideas and suggestions.
Search for the keywords “winter internship” in Handshake or click here to see a curated list of winter break internship postings in Handshake. Additionally, spring semester remote internships may start in January, offering you a chance to get a headstart on an experiential learning opportunity before classes begin. And did you know? Vassar alumnae/i and parents can post internships to VassarNet. For a list of current internships (most are virtual), click here!
Speaking of spring internships, check with the Office of Community-Engaged Learning (OCEL) to see what spring CEL opportunities may be available to start in January!
Have you had an internship before? Try contacting the organization and letting the organization know that you are available and interested in any remote work they may have available for you. Since you have already been trained for this company, they may be more willing to work with you.
If you don’t secure a formal internship, there are other ways to get practical experience. Consider a “micro-internship” - short term projects you can do right now. In partnership with Parker Dewey, a platform where 100’s of companies and non-profits go to hire students for short-term (5-40 hours) paid projects.
Check out Forage (formerly known as InsideSherpa), a company that offers students the opportunity to participate in free virtual work experience programs with top companies in fields like tech, finance, consulting, social impact, and more. The projects are shorter in duration (5-6 hours), and you can participate in as many as you like. You can add the experience as an activity on your resume, and connect with potential employers.
Winter Break Jobs
Maybe you need to earn money over the winter break, and are looking for a part-time or full-time short-term paid position. Opportunities may be most plentiful in retail or food-service; having customer service experience will help you grow and is great for a resume. Job boards that include local listings like Indeed.com or RegionalHelpWanted.com may help you identify local opportunities with immediate hiring needs.
Even if you’re not planning to go into teaching, tutoring is a great experience that expands your resume. Many families with school-age children are looking for both in-person and virtual support. While some tutoring opportunities are posted on Handshake, you can also look for and/or post on sites like Wyzant.com or Care.com.
Winter Break Volunteering
Whether you are looking for a full-time opportunity, or something to do for a few hours or days per week, volunteer or community service opportunities are a great way to add experience to your winter and give back to your community and beyond. While some opportunities are posted in Handshake, check out volunteer-focused databases like Volunteermatch.org, Omprakash.org, and Idealist.org for more robust listings.
Networking & Job Shadowing
The winter break is a great time to connect with people in your field of interest and conduct informational interviews, or even ask to shadow someone in their job (virtually or in-person, health and safety-guidelines permitting). An informational interview can help you build a professional network of contacts, and they are a helpful tool for gathering information about an industry you would like to join, a graduate school you are considering applying to, a city you want to move to, etc.
Vassar alumnae/i are a wonderful resource for informational interviews. There are several ways to locate and connect with Vassar alumnae/i and others in the Vassar community:
VassarNet, Vassar’s online community of nearly 5,000 alumnae/i, students, parents, faculty, and friends of Vassar, will help you build a network and find Vassar-connected opportunities.
Consider asking if you can virtually job shadow someone. Job shadowing involves observing professionals while they work. Ask if you can sit in on zoom or phone calls or be walked through a typical virtual day on the job. Nearly 400 people have offered to be available for job shadowing on VassarNet! To find them, search for people who have selected “Job shadowing” as a Help Topic.
There are more than 24,000 alumnae/i on Vassar’s LinkedIn “University” Page, where you can search for alumnae/i by employer, location, industry, major, and more. You can also use LinkedIn to connect with professionals outside of the Vassar community, like friends of parents, parents of classmates, former teachers, and neighbors.
The Alumnae/i Directory is another way to search for and message Vassar alumnae/i, including people who may be willing to share career advice.
For more information on how to prepare for an informational interview and what to expect, visit the Informational Interviewing section of our website.
Career exploration comes in many forms and we encourage you to find the exploration format that works best for you. Here are some recommendations:
Take a course! Check out Career Decisions: From Insight to Impact, an 11-hour course on Coursera taught by Wesleyan University’s Executive Director of the Gordon Career Center, Sharon Belden Castonguay, EdD. (Coursera courses are *free* to NYS state residents through a partnership with the New York State Dept. of Labor - use your Vassar zip code to register!)
Take a magic career test! (Okay, no career test is really magic, but they can still be useful.) The CDO has a subscription to the FOCUS2, a self-assessment tool that evaluates your interests, personality, skills, and values, and generates a list of careers in line with your results. To create an account, click “Register” and use the following access code: vassarcdo
Listen to podcasts! Check out Glassdoor's Top 10 Career Podcasts to Listen to This Year for some ideas.
Check out Vault's Career Insider, a comprehensive online career resource that includes downloadable Career Guides and Industry Guides for a wide variety of career fields.
Still deciding on your major, or wondering what you can do with a major in ________? What Can I Do With This Major links to popular careers and industries by major and can help you make connections between different majors and various professions.
There is often no better inspiration for what can be done with your Vassar degree than exploring the paths of alumnae/i who came before you. VassarNet is searchable by a variety of criteria, including undergraduate major. And, you can use the “What they studied” filter on Vassar’s interactive LinkedIn University Page to learn more about how major relates to career paths. Use both VassarNet and LinkedIn as research tools as well as a gateway to networking and job shadowing.
Expand Subject Matter Knowledge
The winter can be a great time to deepen your knowledge on subjects of interest to you. Ask faculty, mentors, alumnae/i, and previous supervisors what they are reading now, what some of the foundational texts in the field are, and what knowledge they think is critical to excel in your field(s) of interest.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to continue your learning over winter. Sites like Coursera and edX offer free or low-cost courses on a wide range of topics. General Assembly offers free classes in tech, career development, marketing, and more during December and January. Many Ivy League courses are also hosting free courses online through Class Central.
Vassar is also a collaborating college with Harvard Business School’s Credential of Readiness (CORe), a rigorous online program designed to help you achieve fluency in the language of business. The curriculum developed by HBS faculty covers Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting. The spring semester course starts January 12, 2021; all Vassar students are eligible for scholarships and discounts, and the cost for any Vassar student is just $450 during the spring/summer 2021 sessions.
Winter also presents an opportunity to learn a new language or to enhance your understanding of a foreign language. Sites like Duolingo, Open Culture, Learn a Language, and Babbel provide free or low-cost language instruction.
Develop Skills or Enhance Existing Skills
Winter can be a great time to shore up a gap you’ve identified in your skill set or to take an existing skill to another level. Ask faculty and mentors what skills are in demand in the field or might give you an advantage over other applicants.
All Vassar students have free access to LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning (accessible with your Vassar SSO) is an online educational platform that helps you discover and develop business, technology-related, and creative skills through expert-led course videos. With more than 13,000 self-paced courses and personalized recommendations, you can discover, complete, and track courses related to your field and interests, and even add a badge to your LinkedIn profile when you are done.
This can also be a great time to expand your knowledge around personal finance (budgeting, credit cards, savings, etc.). In addition to providing free standardized test preparation materials (LSAT, MCAT, GMAT) and expert-created academic and professional development courses, Khan Academy has a great module on personal finance. Additionally, CashCourse supports students through free online training modules on personal finance, health care, retirement savings, employer paperwork, student loans and more.
Research Graduate/Professional Schools
The CDO recommends using multiple resources and speaking with faculty, alumnae/i, and other advisors when researching graduate school programs. Begin your search with a faculty member who knows your academic interests and performance well. Search VassarNet or LinkedIn for alumnae/i who have attended programs of interest.
Online resources such as The U.S. News and World Report's Graduate School Rankings allow you to explore grad schools, grad rankings, and best values. Access to premium content is available; check the CDO’s Subscription Resources document for login information.
The Peterson’s Guide is an excellent comprehensive database of graduate programs, and is searchable by a variety of criteria. More recommendations on exploring advanced degrees can be found on our Researching Graduate Schools & Programs of Interest Page.
Study for Graduate/Professional School Entrance Exams
Most graduate and professional degree programs require some form of a standardized test to be completed as part of the application. Consider using the winter break to study for tests such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT and others. Many test scores are good for 3-5 years. Magoosh offers free self-study schedules for the GRE and more to help you structure your time. Kaplan offers a 15% discount to Vassar students on any of their course offerings; check the CDO’s Subscription Resources document for the discount code.
Enhance your Online Presence
A simple way to enhance your online presence is to update your professional profiles on VassarNet, LinkedIn, Handshake, and other professional/academic platforms and forums that you may be on. By filling out your profile(s) completely, you allow potential employers to understand your knowledge and skills better, and for employers to “discover” you through these platforms candidate search functions for employers. Check out the LinkedIn Profile Checklist for more details on completing your profile on LinkedIn and other professional platforms.
After updating your profile(s), dedicate time to being active on your platform(s) or professional network(s) of choice. Share interesting articles, link to relevant talks/video content, and post updates on projects that you/your team completed. Active members of professional platforms/networks look more attractive to potential employers because they are clearly engaged with their field(s) of interest.
Update Your Career Interests on Handshake
If you didn’t update your Career Interests when you set up your Handshake profile, take a moment to do so because this will make Handshake work for you. By identifying what your interests are, your Handshake landing page, which will list internship and/or job opportunities, will change based on what you identified. Click here to update your industry interests on Handshake!
Create an Online Portfolio
Some professions require more than a resume and cover letter when applying for an internship or a job. Creative fields may require you to submit a portfolio, which is a collection of work that visually and/or auditorily displays a candidate’s artistic, design, performative, or technical skills. A portfolio is not a complete archive of all of your work, but should be thought of as an edited and curated collection of your best work. The below websites can help you house and build an online portfolio to share with potential employers and/or graduate school programs.
If you have the ability to build your own website to host your portfolio, do it because it will separate you from others and will show your website architectural abilities.
Consider using this time to create and invest in a project you are passionate about: Gather literature around a subject of interest, write a research proposal, design an app, write code, develop your own marketing campaign around a product or idea, identify a business problem and develop creative solutions to the problem, etc.
Winter can be a great time to embrace creativity. You could start writing fiction, non-fiction or songs, play music, create a documentary video, build a website, start a blog, etc. The opportunities are endless! Maybe this winter is a good time to take up journaling or exploring the bullet journal trend.
Most of all, use your best judgment for how to proceed this winter. For some, this winter will be an important time to focus on self-care. Your health must always come first. What follows are some resources to assist you in taking care of yourself during these uncertain times.
What we hope you take away from this handout is that winter doesn’t have to be thought of as one thing, but rather a myriad of opportunities to build valuable skills and knowledge for your future aspirations. You can add any of these experiences to your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, or discuss during an interview to show employers or graduate school programs how you made the most of your winter. This will demonstrate that you’ve taken the appropriate steps to prepare yourself for the next opportunity and your future.