Recent college graduate

How College Students Should Be Spending Their Summer Vacation

Jim Stroud is giving advice to college students for the job market.

With summer almost upon us, it behooves every college student to consider the next few months carefully. Sure, the family vacation is nice and working at a fast-food joint (as I did, back in the day) is good to keep you busy and put some change in your pocket. However, does it meet your long-term career objectives? More importantly, will the things you do this summer be impressive to a future employer days after your graduation? Before you answer that rhetorical question, consider the traits that an employer may be looking for.

I distinctly remember survey data of 600 employers being discussed by the GMAT organization that said the most sought after skills centered around communication. In fact, in order of importance in the workplace, employers ranked communication skills, twice as important as managerial skills. Hmm… I wonder why that is? But I digress.

Although communication was a key factor, teamwork, leadership, technical and managerial acumen were also in the mix. Such being the case, the college student that exhibits all of those traits in a professional situation would be a choice candidate indeed. Make sense? (I think so.) That being said, I would like to propose a plan that could have a long-tail positive effect on any college student that would implement it. Are you ready? Here we go…

  1. Start a business. I’m not suggesting a brick and mortar exercise but rather, something that fits into the gig economy. Whether that is being an Uber driverselling advicevirtual life coaching, selling custom merchandise, small project work or more large-scale projects there are plenty of no-money down options.
  2. Set a goal for your business. Plan to sell so much per week, per month, for the entirety of the summer. Strategize how you are going to meet your goals and whom you may need to ask for help. For extra credit, join an organization like Toastmasters because it will help enhance your communication skills.
  3. Keep a business diary. (I suggest Evernote, but whatever you are comfortable with.) Log every success and failure; be brutally honest with yourself.
  4. At the end of Summer, write a paper about your business. Highlight those experiences where you communicated with your customers, negotiated deals, managed your days, used technology to facilitate your activities and worked with others; even if it was just a matter of soliciting advice from mentors.
  5. Convince reporters to write about you. Depending on how you spin your story, you may catch the attention of reporters who may quote you in their articles. For example, a story on “Why I will be the President 10 Years from Now” detailing your success in business might make a great human interest story. There are several websites out there that can connect you with all sorts of reporters. For example, Help a Reporter OutHey Press and Worldfixer. (You can also find thousands of them on Twitter.)

Hopefully by now, my evil plan is evident. Starting a business gets you experience immediately, if you can manage to start a virtual business related to your long-term career goals, all the better. Focusing on the key traits that all employers are looking for, communication being chief among them, will make you a more desirable candidate. Promoting your skills and experience for reporters to write about will promote you to countless potential employers who would no doubt admire your moxy and want you on their payroll. (Insert evil mad scientist laugh here.)

Of course, you may be thinking that what I suggested is a lot of work. Well, that’s because it is. Doing what I suggested could place you at a great advantage over your job seeking counterparts. Not doing any of what I mentioned makes you just like all the rest vying for employment and without a compelling story to tell about your summer experiences, why would any company want to hire you over say… “John Doe?” Especially when I know that John Doe would be a great hire and coincidentally, a great president ten years from now! How do I know that? Why, I just read about it in the news.



Jim Stroud is a senior director at Randstad Sourceright and the author of “The Number One Job Hunting Book In the World!” (available on Amazon).

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One thought on “How College Students Should Be Spending Their Summer Vacation”

  1. Hi Jim,

    Really interesting and insightful post. I have been working in the recruitment process for a number of years now and I have to say students that have been proactive over the summer months and gained experience really do stand out to me.

    Once again great article, keep posting!

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