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Eight ways to spend your long university summers (and get a job at the end)

Whether you’ve just graduated or are gearing up for another year at university, you’ve still got a month or so of summer to go. It’s easy to get carried away with the sun, sand and sambuca – but pause for a second and think about the opportunities you can utilise. Whether you want to work out what you want to do, bolster your CV, make some extra cash or just try something new, there are plenty of ways you can have fun over the rest of the summer and still aid your graduate job prospects.

1. Read up on careers

We all know how hectic university life can be. Forever jumping from one thing to another, putting off thinking about your career until you have the time. Well, now’s the best time to bite the procrastination bullet and read up on different career sectors like you’ve been meaning to. There are loads of great careers advice articles, publications and accounts to read. Also, be sure to keep up to date with industry developments in your field (eg technological releases if you’re interested in IT or the news if you’re interested in politics). This sort of in-depth knowledge really shines through in interviews and is best cultivated over time.

2. Check deadlines and apply

Talking of procrastinating, now’s the time to submit those job applications you’ve been putting off. If you’ve recently graduated, now exams are over it’s time to secure your next step – and if you’re entering your final year, it’s best to investigate job prospects and deadlines now. Some graduate schemes close in autumn and getting in an application early can show you’re enthusiastic and on the ball. Having a good idea of when different jobs and schemes open and close is also useful, as it ensures you don’t get so caught up in university life you miss a deadline later on. Deadlines vary hugely by career sector, so check out the advice on different careers sectors on TARGETjobs.

3. Develop a skill

Always wanted to pick up an instrument? Learn a new language? Join a sports team? Why not take advantage of the time you have now by developing a skill? There are plenty of hobbies and activities you can take up, all of which can hugely benefit your job prospects. And not just the directly useful skills like teaching yourself a programming language – even if you’re just learning to knit, the perseverance and commitment to bettering yourself is a strong attribute employers look for and often ask about in interviews.

4. Get a head start on uni work

Hear me out. Getting started on your university work before the year begins may sound like overkill, but it can really help pace out hectic terms. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs over the summer why not pick up a few books from your reading list or start looking into topics for your dissertation? Not only will it make term less stressful once it starts, it also will free up more time to attend careers events and work on job applications, so you’re not snowed under by everything all at once.

5. Volunteer

Already graduated? Why not take on a regular volunteering commitment while you job hunt? Not only is getting involved in charity work morally great, which can bolster your spirits as you find purpose in an area you’re passionate about, it’s also a great way to develop key employability skills and gain experience in an often less pressurised atmosphere. And for the more cynical of students needing an extra nudge, yes – it does look great on your CV and provide plenty of great talking points for interviews too. Check out our advice on how extracurricular activities will help you get hired for more ideas that will boost your career prospects.

6. Part-time jobs

Likewise, if you’ve already graduated you could consider getting yourself a part-time job. Part-time work can be a really great way of not just earning some extra cash to claw back out of your overdraft, but also meeting new people and gaining practical experience of the world of work. A part-time job, whether it's in a bar, café, shop or elsewhere, can help you develop skills and experience useful for your career like teamwork, customer service, sales and people management. You may also find a part-time job grants you the contacts to lead into something more permanent, or at least provides a failsafe for you while job hunting after university.

7. Line up some work experience

Try before you buy! A week or two of work experience can be a useful insight into the kind of roles or industry you might be interested in. You might find something you love or manage to avoid committing yourself into working in an area you’re completely unsuited for. Why not try out something new? Plus, if you enjoy it, work experience looks great on your CV and can help lead into internships and careers. It may be too late now to arrange something for the rest of the summer unless it’s through pre-existing contacts, but there’s no reason not to start arranging plans for later in the year (the Christmas holidays, perhaps?), and for graduates struggling to get their foot on the career ladder, work experience and internships can be invaluable in helping secure a graduate job. They give you a competitive edge over your peers and if you throw yourself into them you can gain connections that could lead into a permanent position.

8. Most importantly… relax!

University is exhausting and you need to recoup your strength before launching yourself back to uni in autumn or into the world of work. Make the most of the summer holidays while you can. Go to the beach, jet off abroad, hang out with friends, catch up on all that Netflix you’ve missed. Enjoy a break – you’ve earned it!

More careers advice on TARGETjobs

Part-time jobs that will kick-start your graduate career

Ten skills you'll gain from a part-time retail job

Ten skills you can get from doing a bar job

Advice on working abroad

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