With spring nearly upon us and summer just around the corner, many students are probably dreaming about a vacation. While some will certainly be relaxing, others will use their free time to get ahead. For high achievers, the break from school is a chance to make some money, get an internship or even start a business to give themselves an edge when they enter the workforce.
Why You Need to Hustle While On Vacation
According to the most recent report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers are looking for specific skill sets on the résumés of recent college graduates. In fact, almost 78 percent of employers are keen on finding new hires with leadership skills and the ability to work on a team. These attributes were followed by written communication skills (73.4 percent), problem solving skills (70.9 percent) and a strong work ethic (70.4 percent).
Spending your vacation lying by the pool won't do your future self any favors. Instead, long vacations can be a great time to strengthen your résumé with work experience and take advantage of opportunities to cultivate the skills needed to make you a desirable employee. An added bonus? It's actually easier to do this while you're on break than while trying to juggle classes and a social life at the same time.
How One High-Achiever Started a Business in High School
Eva Baker, 20, took this to heart when she created TeensGotCents.com, a company that encourages financial literacy for teens through speaking engagements and educational articles.
Baker, who is on a temporary leave from her studies at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida, so she can focus on her company, started her organization while she was a junior in high school. Her mother homeschooled her and required her to complete a long-term project of her choice as a part of her curriculum. Baker came up with the idea for TeensGotSense.com while listening to an audiobook about how to become financially solvent in the car with her mom. What started four years ago as a high school project has turned into a full-blown company with eight team members and an annual conference for teen entrepreneurs. Based on Baker's experience, here are some of the things she recommends high-achievers do with their time off.
They Plan Ahead
High-achievers don't wait until summer arrives to plan how they are going to spend their vacation. Instead, they brainstorm productive ways to use their time off far in advance.
"Come up with an idea and be ready with a plan when summer gets here," Baker said. This way, you're ahead of the game with a job already lined up, a project in the works or an idea you can execute as soon as your break begins.
They Are Passionate About Their Projects
Baker emphasized that students should find something they are passionate about working on. In her case, she realized there was a need for financial literacy among her peers. It was something she became interested in after witnessing her mother teach herself the basics of personal finance following her divorce. She noticed there was plenty of financial content for adults but not a lot for teens.
Having passion behind a project can keep you motivated when you are tempted to spend your vacations doing nothing. Since you have a "why" behind the project, you are more likely to pursue it.
They Improve Their Skills While Earning Extra Money
While it's possible for students to find part-time jobs or paid internships during their vacations, Baker said it's not always feasible. Companies typically want to hire people who will stick around longer than a couple of months, which can be challenging for students who are looking to work during their temporary break from school. That's why she advises students look for alternative ways to earn money and simultaneously build their skill set.
"It could be the basics like babysitting or lawn mowing. Or, find something you know you are good at doing," said Baker.
For example, if you're a proficient writer, try getting some freelance gigs. If you have a knack for organizing, turn that into a closet organization business. There are multiple ways for students to earn extra money while gaining practical skills during vacations that don't always look like a traditional part-time job or internship.
Think of Your Future Self
In Baker's case, the demand for her company's services has been so high that she had to take a temporary break from school to focus on her growing business. For her, a simple vacation project has turned into a career. This may not be the case for everyone and that's okay, she said.
"Your project may last just a few summers," Baker said, "but during that time you will earn money and learn so many skills that will help future you."
As a high achiever, taking advantage of your summers will be invaluable and will put you ahead when you enter the work force. And if you take it a step further like Baker did, then you could end up turning a summer project into a successful career.