This article originally appeared on Monster.com.
As you head into senior year, you’re probably feeling some conflicting emotions. It’s your last summer of freedom, so you want to make the most of it. On the other hand, the clock is starting to tick, winding down to that dreaded day when you’ll have to start adulting for real—aka, get a job.
If you don’t want to end up graduated and unemployed, now’s the time to get ahead of the pack.
“Summer is your time to build your confidence, gain experience, and expand your leadership capabilities, all things that will help you nail those job interviews in the future,” says Tami Kesselman, chairman of the U.S. affiliate of AIESE, the world’s largest student-run organization for volunteerism and professional internships.
To help you make the most of this pre-senior year season, we talked with career experts and came up with the ultimate summer to-do list: ten activities you can do to make your job search feel less daunting, prepare you for next year, and still leave some well-earned downtime in the sun.
Add experience? Check. Learn new skills? Definitely. Network? That too. Volunteering at an organization or brand is one of the most productive ways to prepare for your senior year job search.
“Hiring managers love hard data points that they can pass on to decision-makers,” says John Liston, manager of strategy and operations at All Set in Boston. “Spending the summer dedicating 20 hours per week to a non-profit where you increased your responsibility from event manager to fundraising coordinator and were responsible for raising over $5,000 will show extremely well when you are trying to land an internship or post-grad position.”
2. Take an improv class
Nearly every job in the world requires the ability to think and speak on your feet. So why not master this skill and have fun while you’re doing it?
“From listening and responding, thinking in the moment, and developing confidence in speaking in a variety of social situations, improv offers an awesome professional and personal development opportunity that is rivaled by none,” says Jen Brown, founder of The Engaging Educator, an improv education program in New York City.
3. Professionalize your social media
Remember those pictures you uploaded from the party last weekend? You’d better double-check that they aren’t public-facing. One wrong impression can cost you the opportunity for a job interview.
“Before you reach out to even one person, scrub your social media, untag yourself from any and all ‘interesting’ posts, and Google yourself,” suggests Carlota Zimmerman, a career success strategist in New York City.
It isn’t just embarrassing pictures that may raise red flags for recruiters or hiring managers. One of the biggest turn-offs is misspellings and grammar mistakes. So turn on spell check and start editing.
4. Attend a conference
Attending a conference is a great way to learn more about your target industry as well as network with people who may be able to help you get a job.
If you’re still unsure about what specific industry you want to pursue, there are conferences on topics that are relevant to multiple fields, for instance, sales or marketing. “If you're interested in social media marketing, imagine how much you could potentially learn by going to a social media marketing conference,” says Alex Reichmann, CEO of iTestCash, a counterfeit money product testing retailer in New York City.
Or, to find conferences that interest you, search allconferences.com to find an event relevant to your major.
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5. Create or edit your resume
If you don’t have a professional resume, you’ve got three months to create one that’s good enough to impress any hiring manager. Have a resume, but haven’t updated it since last year’s internships? Now’s the perfect time bring it up to date—and maybe even give it a makeover.
As a start, “share your resume with someone in your field of interest, and ask for their editing help or suggestions,” says Amy Cooper Hakim, a consultant at The Cooper Strategic Group, an employment agency in Boca Raton, Florida.
6. Read books relevant to your desired field
While industry-related books might not seem like ideal beach reading material, this is something you can do for your career and still enjoy a fabulous summer day. You won’t just learn valuable information, you’ll also be armed with conversation material for future interviews.
“As an employer, I enjoy seeing candidates who want to better themselves, even when they are not on the clock,” says Trent Silver, millennial career coach and CEO of Nerdster.com, an online education and job portal application. “It’s said that you are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with and the books you’ve read. Feed your brain.”
7. Learn to code
For students not studying engineering or computer science, learning to code might seem daunting–and even unnecessary. But today, with some skills you can learn in no time, you can create an app of your own to put in your portfolio and wow hiring managers.
“Creating something demonstrates true passion for your field, allows the interviewer to make a real-life assessment and says to a prospective employer that you are a go-getter,” says DawnQi, founder of LadyQs.com, a site dedicated to providing trusted answers to questions from women. “Show me your ingenious app, and I know you've got what it takes.”
8. Travel abroad
Have you been looking for an excuse to get away this summer? Consider us your inspiration to book a last-minute trip abroad. Traveling to a country with different customs, languages, and way of living adds perspective—and oftentimes—unforgettable experiences. That said, don’t book a week in Cancun just to sit on the beach.
“On the resume side, a lot of companies, whether startup or multinational, nonprofit or for profit, value international experiences,” says Kesselman. “It shows you understand and appreciate diversity. Bottom line, that experience will likely make you a better employee.”
9. Build an online portfolio
Today, getting a job offer requires more than waving your diploma in front of hiring managers. It often calls for an online portfolio of work to demonstrate you can do the job from the get-go.
A portfolio for design students might have designs of different media—web banners, infographics, etc. One for marketing students might contain results from social media campaigns or links to blogs. There are portfolio websites with easy-to-use templates including www.carbonmade.com and www.behance.com, among many others.
“Create different versions of your portfolio to highlight different talents for different opportunities,” suggests Deb Everhart, VP, design and innovation at Learning Objects, an education company based in Washington, D.C.
10. Create your career manifesto
Yes, it is possibly your last summer of freedom. So allow yourself to take time to relax. “Reflect on the semester, on clubs, a job, on friends,” says Jane Scudder, a career coach at Career Contessa in Chicago. “Reflection is a really little-taught skill but it is so critical to success and happiness.”
It doesn’t necessarily mean daydreaming, though. It can mean coming to terms with what you want out of your career. You might even want to create your own career manifesto, a written declaration of career intentions— a kind of road map for your job search—that can help you stay focused and get ahead.