Summer Breaks Well Spent: Investing In Your Future
By Kree Small
There’s a temptation during the summer months for college students to relax, hang out with friends, and make a quick buck. However, summertime is the optimum time to build resumes and gain experience for future careers. The lack of time constraints during this season allows for skill-learning and workforce prep opportunities. With programs like the Mayor’s Youth Academy (MYA) and RVA Future, students can utilize their downtime to gain job readiness training, leadership development, exposure to entrepreneurship, mentoring, and post-secondary career exploration.
Toria Edmonds-Howell, Program Manager of the Mayor’s Youth Academy, believes that there’s no better time than the summer to focus on personal and professional development.
“The summer is an excellent time to get involved in activities that magnify young people’s skills,” she explains. “Those skills include effective communication, professional presentation of themselves, network building, and a growth positive mindset.”
To cultivate these skills, Toria mentions that elaborate trips aren’t necessary, but simple trips to the science museum allow you to meet a few people here and there. She emphasizes that you are your biggest advocate, and while opportunities are there for everyone, it’s up to each student to seek them out by joining programs like the ones listed above.
“During the summer, a lot of young people sit at home 24/7, on the couch, in front of the TV,” she says. “Get up and get involved. Don’t allow yourself to miss any of the opportunities available to you.”
For college students, internships aid in more than just the development of the skills for your specific career, but they help build and enhance students’ professional connections, network, and helps determine if their future plans align with their long-term goals.
Nersa Backstrom, a Virginia State University student, is on his second year of interning with the well-known technical company IBM. Nersa said that there have been countless unbelievable and unexpected outcomes from taking this position; not only has he been able to pursue a high school interest of his, but he has also been able to expand his network and gain the qualities needed to successfully go forward in this field.
When asked about sacrifices that Nersa had to take, he explains that he did not lose anything, but instead gained plenty from this opportunity.
“If I had to make sacrifices for this job, I definitely would,” Nersa states. “This is an important experience. IBM is a company built on innovation; you can always push the company and everyone in it forward and it’s always challenging people.”
This is but one example of how finding summer opportunities outside of retail or fast food can give you the ability to grow within your field.
As summer approaches, each student has a responsibility to think critically about what their unique path to a promising future looks like. As a S.T.E.M major, your summers may look more like taking classes, attending independent lectures, and applying for the thousands of different internships available to you, whereas students studying within the humanities may need to focus on networking and connecting with those inside of your field, asking questions about a typical day in their life, finding opportunities to shadow, and while building your creative portfolio through internships.
All in all, take advantage of the long days with no classes, an empty schedule, a bright future and prepare to invest in your future. Get involved; it will pay off more than you know.