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advice for a productive summer

“What are you doing this summer?” This is one of the questions you hear most frequently when you’re walking around campus at this time of year. For many BC students, particularly upperclassmen, the answer is clear: they’re pursuing formal internships to help them gain work experience and position themselves to be hired upon graduation.

But for many others, a professional internship is neither realistic nor desirable just yet. Some students, particularly underclassmen, might not qualify for formal internship programs for another year or two. Others are taking classes, volunteering, traveling, or working at a summer job that can’t be considered a formal internship. While these experiences may appear to be less career focused than professional internships, they are absolutely worthwhile—and they offer students singular opportunities to think productively about exploring their careers.

As a parent, you play an important role in this exploration. That’s why we’ve put together this list of essential steps you can take to help your student use the summer months wisely to explore his or her interests and skills, gain experience, and make connections that will accelerate their career growth and achieve long-term success.

1.)  Visit the Boston College Career Center Website and use it to help create a Summer Career To Do List. Encourage your student to use the center’s resources to develop such a list, checking off the steps he or she has already taken, and determining which might be easiest/best to pursue during warm-weather months. The Your Career Plan section of the Career Center’s website is a great place to start.

2.)  Rethink that Summer Job While some summer jobs might strike you as a detour from a focused career path, remember that many seemingly unrelated positions can actually help students build valuable, transferable skills that employers crave. You can help your son or daughter recognize that. Some students will have to be encouraged to think about their summer jobs in terms of “skill development” because they often take for granted the skills they are learning. It becomes easier when you invite them to share specific examples of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Ask questions and listen carefully to how they describe their work. Point out that the skills they are articulating are essential to many fields. Offer examples. Serving as a summer camp counselor? They are probably managing teams, and motivating others. Traveling or studying abroad? More than ever, employers are seeking students with multicultural competencies and language fluency. Working in retail? Excellent customer service and interpersonal skills are important in any career path they choose. Similarly, coach your student to ask for additional responsibilities at work that will help make him or her more “career ready.” All employers like students who demonstrate initiative and want to take on additional responsibility.

3.)  Encourage Your Student to Dive Deep into Career Exploration Summer provides a welcome lull in the hectic academic schedule, giving students more time to think more about their careers. Starting with the Career Center’s Explore Careers page, they can gather information on occupations, career industries, and companies of interest—the sort of research they may not have time to tackle during the academic year. Summer is also a good time to use resources like our “Where Do Eagles Fly” alumni data.

4.)  Remind Your Student to Refine/Retool Their Résumé and LinkedIn Profile Today, any professional knows that if you don’t have an updated résumé and LinkedIn profile, you are at a big disadvantage when you see a job that interests you. The same holds true for your student. Summer provides a terrific opportunity for students to think carefully as they update these materials, tailoring content to make sure they present themselves in the best possible way. Have them take advantage of this time.

Additional Career Center resources:

Explore careers by major/industry is organized by major and features employer and grad school information for BC graduates over the last three years. It’s a good resource for students seeking a better idea of the types of jobs recent alumni have received.

Consult the Career Center’s getting started and online resources sections on their website, including their career exploration and education videos.

From the Archives:

You may also be interested in these past Parent Update stories:

Why internships are the new college and career essential

The Three Key Questions: Boston College’s powerful approach to career exploration

Introducing Endeavor: The liberal arts advantage for sophomores

5.)  Help Your Student Make Personal Connections Informational interviews are one of the most powerful ways for students to explore careers and cultivate connections that can be helpful in securing a future internship or full-time job. As a parent, you are in a unique position to make formal introductions to friends, family, or business colleagues, expanding your son’s or daughter’s access to networks that would be difficult to cultivate on their own. Many professionals have more “downtime” during the summer, and may be available for informational interviews and job shadowing opportunities. Students should also join the Boston College Career Community on LinkedIn, where almost 14,000 students, alumni, and friends of Boston College share career advice.

6.)  Suggest that Your Student Make an Appointment with the Career Center In summer, when students leave campus, they often forget we are still here. We work with students in-person, by phone, and via Skype throughout the warm-weather months to address their career needs and answer their questions. Remind your student this is a perfect time to meet with us to get advice and develop an action plan for next steps for the remainder of the summer and the upcoming fall semester.


—Joe Du Pont