Summer Break What to Do

Summer break – the few months from May to August. Many students have difficulties finding internships during that period. After all, the competition is incredibly high, and some employers don’t want to hire interns who are only going to stay for a few months at best.

Given the time constraints, what other options are there for students to improve their LinkedIn profiles and resumes? How can students make the best of the free months? Well, look no further! Here are five alternative productive activities you can do to upskill yourself and come out as presentable despite having no official internship!

1. Upskilling Through Online Courses

Given the power of technology and the increasing competition, many have begun to look for online courses and certificates to help give that small boost to their portfolio. Not only do they attend these courses, they also download the certificates and upload it on LinkedIn to show both initiative in learning and credentials as evidence of competency in skills.

Although these certificates are not as ‘formal’ or ‘official’ as something like a university degree, they can definitely help to improve your portfolio! They show subtle signs of engagement with the subject for employers, and they provide you with ‘face value’ at the very least and formal recognition at best.

They are also not extremely difficult to complete as compared to actual university modules (in my opinion), although this does tend to vary with the course and site! But from my experience, they tend to take a shorter time to complete, they don’t have live lectures, and they don’t require as much reading as a module.

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They are also good for additional learning, especially since they provide a wide variety of subjects for you to choose from! You can take a course on anything ranging from business analytics to forensic science!

Nowadays, there are many online platforms for such courses. If you have a specific subject in mind, a quick google search should show many potential websites. But for those who wish to explore the wide variety, websites such as Coursera, Udacity and Skillsoft are available. Google also has free online digital courses for you to try – so what are you waiting for? Start exploring today!

2. Read up on your Subject

Asides from the certificates from online courses, another opportunity to show interest and passion in your subject is through additional learning! Whether that be through books, podcasts, documentaries, or even YouTube videos, taking additional notes on your subject is the best way to display passion.

This can benefit both yourself and your employer – on your part, you can learn more about the interesting perspectives and theories of professional individuals in the field; for the employer, this demonstrates a passion for the subject, a willingness to know more, and an increased knowledge that others do not have. This can definitely give you an edge during an interview or any networking session, as it gives you the opportunity to ask engaging questions that others might not have thought about and allows you to stand out from the crowd!

For any university students who are unsure of what they want to do after graduation or are unsure of their current degree, this also presents an excellent opportunity for you to find out what you are interested in (both within your field and outside of it). So take this opportunity!

I personally prefer more academic-heavy books, so my initial go-to was actually the Cambridge Psychology recommended reading list! Based on those books, I then differentiated between the authors I enjoy reading and the authors that are not my personal taste, and went from there.

Another option is to pick a topic you are interested in, and google books related to it. You can also use the NLB search function – type in the topic or the title of a random psychology book, and you can scroll down to see if any other book catches your interest.

And to help anyone who is still undecided, I have decided to list some of my favorite authors and books down below! But do keep in mind that I prefer more academic-heavy books with dense content, and that this style might not be for everyone. Regardless, here is my list:

  1. Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature (or anything by Steven Pinker, really)
  2. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
  3. Antonio Damasio – Descartes’ Error
  4. Michael Shermer – The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics
  5. Malcolm Gladwell – Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

3. Catch Up on the News

It is no surprise that there are new topics to read up on every day – whether it be US versus China, COVID-19 and the varying methods governments use to manage the pandemic, the gatherings of large organizations like the UN or ASEAN, there is definitely some large important global event occurring.

However, as a student, I must confess I read the news a lot less than I should. It isn’t easy studying in university, and if you add to that the huge number of responsibilities – ranging from housework to working part-time – it’s easy to see why opening up the BBC app on my phone isn’t my number one priority.

But during the summer break, all your academic responsibilities get removed for three months! This means that you have more time and more freedom to catch up on all the global events you missed.

Why is this important? Simple – being able to speak intelligently about current affairs not only reflects well on you as an individual during networking sessions, it can also help you aim for a scholarship. It is no secret that Singapore is extremely competitive, and being able to discuss and debate current affairs is a skillset that simply provides an advantage to stand out. So get ready to read!

Some notable news sources online include: BBC, CNA, Straits Times and HKFP. I personally prefer books, and I tend to look at the Financial Times for political book recommendations.

Again, you can use the NLB to search books about specific countries e.g. input ‘China’ if you’re interested in it and scroll down to look for any book that you might want to read. I will also put my own personal list down below for anyone starting out:

  1. Jeffrey Wasserstrom – Hong Kong On the Brink (very short book, but very concise, condensed, and informative for anyone wondering about the history of Hong Kong and the protests)
  2. Anne Applebaum – Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (very good book examining Poland’s political situation, UK and Brexit, and the US) (side note: I am officially a fan of Anne Applebaum and all her works – regardless of whether they are books or journalist pieces on the New York Times)
  3. Parag Khanna – Move: The Forces Uprooting Us (a fantastic book, and one which shares many of my viewpoints, particularly in terms of varying policies in the West)
  4. Sulmaan Wasif Khan – Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping (a good book written from a historian’s perspective – oftentimes history helps to understand the present political and economic goals of a country such as China)
  5. Cate Malek, Mateo Hoke, Alex Carp – Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation (a comprehensive book inclusive of a timeline, and two research papers that help to provide an analytical view of the situation. The narratives also humanize the conflict, and show the strength and resilience for those struggling during times of conflict.)

4. Find and Attend Networking Opportunities

The summer break also provides a great opportunity for any networking or mentorship sessions! During the university semester, it is difficult (if not painful) to have to add networking on your seemingly never-ending to-do list. And given the large amount of work, it can be tiring to push yourself to actively search for such sessions.

That’s why summer break is a fantastic time to do so! With such a large amount of time on your hands, you can now go down the google-search-rabbit-hole for as long as you wish! You have the time to connect with people on LinkedIn, look for any mentorship offers, or sign up for any sharing sessions with professionals. You can even scour platforms like Reddit and Twitter to see if they share any new websites for you to explore!

For those who know what they want to do after university, these activities can help provide insight into where you might want to work or where you want to take your Masters. They can also provide you with new perspectives that you might not have thought of before, or give you new options to consider.

And for those who are unsure, this is the perfect opportunity for you to explore! Form connections with a wide range of people and hear about their experiences – it can provide insight into the day-to-day work of different occupations. You might also want to consider asking experts why they chose their job as it might inspire you to consider new factors when deciding on what you want to do!

I personally managed to join NUS Psychology Society for this, and they fortunately provide constant updates to my NUS email. I also follow SG Psych Society on Instagram, and they tend to post about mentorship opportunities there, so those are some ways you too can consider finding such events.

You can also join telegram groups, such as the FASS telegram group. They typically post updates for jobs, but they do post when relevant talks come up – you can consider signing up for those!

5. Brush up on Your Online Presence

The final activity I would recommend is to brush up on your online presence. Whether that be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or anything else – it is important to ensure that they are up-to-date. This is definitely important for any future applications, and can simultaneously help you network over the holidays!

To start, you can list off the online platforms you tend to use for networking (for me, that’s LinkedIn and Twitter). Then, I would ensure that I have an updated and decent profile picture. If not, time to organize a photoshoot over the holidays! If you do, then go through each section and see if you can add anything from your recent semester to your profile. Alternatively, you can also update these profiles by taking online courses and uploading the certificates.

Finally, you can start posting online if you’ve attended any talks or any sharing sessions to boost activity and strengthen your online presence!

Well, that’s all for now! See you next time, and enjoy the next summer break!

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