Make Your Spring Break a Week of Professional Development

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When you think about your upcoming plans for spring break, you may dream about beach vacations or quality time with family. But since traveling to exotic locales isn’t a reality for everyone, why not use the time off to advance your skills and career?

Whether you’re a student, teacher, or parent (or you’re just lucky enough to have spring break off from work) there are plenty of ways to make the week fun and productive. Maybe you’re ready to pick up a brand new skill, or perhaps you want to focus on your professional development and gain some real-world experience. With some planning and a little creativity, you can make your own perfect spring break professional development itinerary.

Read on for some ideas to help you plan your ideal week off.

Pick up a new skill

Spring break is a great time to dive into something new, and there are tons of free opportunities to learn and grow. If you’d like to learn something new from the comfort of your own home, explore offerings on these sites:

  • Idealist Careers brings you an ever-growing library of useful resources for improving your resume, searching for jobs, applying to grad school, and more. Check out our resources page for career development guides on topics like personal branding and career paths, and for job search guides with information on applying and interviewing.
  • Skillshare courses are taught by experts in a variety of fields, and their free offerings are only about an hour long. Sign on to Skillshare and learn graphic design, email marketing, visual storytelling, or blogging. Watch videos on workplace productivity, or how to succeed in an interview. Whatever you want to brush up on, you can probably find it here.
  • Udemy also offers courses on a wide variety of topics. If you type “free” in the search bar, you’ll be presented with a list of hundreds of free courses that can be completed in about 10 hours or less. Tune up your writing skills or learn to build a website or develop an app. The possibilities are endless.
  • Open Culture offers free resources specifically for brushing up on your language skills. Whether you want to learn the basics or practice a language you already know, chances are you’ll find some free resources on this site.

Remember, spring break is only one week long, so it makes the most sense to choose just one skill you want to learn or practice (rather than all of the above) and then develop a manageable schedule for your time.

Get hands on experience

If you’d rather be out in the community than in front of your computer, spend the week focusing on hands-on learning.

Is there a particular nonprofit in your community that you’d like to support or learn about? Consider job shadowing for the week.

Whether you are a student or professional, if you have the time off, job shadowing with an accomplished nonprofit professional is a chance to see what the field is like, ask questions, and of course, network!

Not sure where to start? If you’re a student or recent graduate, check with your college career office for any organized job-shadowing programs. Plenty of colleges and universities have listings of alumni interested in taking on a mentee for a few days.

If that doesn’t provide any opportunities, explore who may be available in your own network. Talk to alumni, friends, and colleagues whose jobs you are interested in learning more about. Ask them if you can shadow them for a few days in whatever way is most convenient. If shadowing isn’t a possibility, perhaps they’ll be open to a friendly conversation over coffee. Most people are flattered when someone takes an interest in their career and will be happy to help.

And if you can’t find anyone in your network, reach out to an organization you are interested in. Be clear about your goals for the week and the amount of time you’d like to commit and ask them if there is an employee who would be interested in having you as a shadow. If there is someone in particular you admire, try to reach out directly and arrange an informational meeting at their office or over coffee. Talk about your career goals and ask if they would allow you to shadow them. It can be scary to make that ask but it’ll be worth it if it leads to an awesome experience. Plus, you’ve got nothing to lose.

To get the most of your job-shadowing experience, try the following:

  • Prepare: Do your research on the field and the person you’re shadowing. Come up with specific questions you want answered and set goals for yourself about what you’d like to learn.
  • Be respectful: Be cognizant of the workplace culture. While you want to learn and ask questions, recognize that there is also a time to be quiet and just observe.
  • Follow up: You may only spend a few hours or days shadowing, but don’t end the relationship when you walk out the door. Send a thank you email, letter, or card telling your mentor how much you enjoyed the experience and continue to stay in touch.

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There are many other ways you can create your ideal spring break. Maybe you want to spend the time working on your resume, drafting cover letters, or checking out these inspirational reads. You could volunteer from home or plan a trip abroad. Or, perhaps what you really need is time for self-care. Whatever you decide, try to use the week to focus on you.

What is your perfect spring break? Do you have other ideas for how you can use the time to further your career? Share your plans or suggestions in the comments below.

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Samantha has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.
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