It’s the middle of summer – your last day at university, school or college feels like a long time ago and yet you’ve still got a month to go. Not bad, eh?
We know that you’ll be busy over the summer, whether you’re doing some voluntary work, working a temporary job to get some cash in your pocket or even spending some time travelling and experiencing new cultures. But how many of you have stopped to think about what you’re actually gaining from your summer experiences?
Come September, there will be so much going on that you might start to forget some of the valuable things you learnt over the summer. So why not take a minute to reflect on what you’ve done so far, and what you want to achieve with the rest of your time away from university? You’ll thank yourself for it when it comes to applying for jobs, internships or placements.
When considering your achievements, it’s useful to ask yourself a few questions and note down the answers. We asked our current batch of students taking part in a Summer Experience Internship (SEI) a few questions to help them reflect on their experience. You can use these questions to put your own experiences into words, too.
What is the biggest achievement of your summer work so far?
Madeleine: Being able to talk on the spot, talking in front of people, and using my design skills (which I don’t get to use in my social sciences degree) have all been achievements.
Lucy: So far I would say being able to produce and conduct a full research process. This has given me confidence before going in to my final year and completing my dissertation.
Harry: My biggest achievement is learning the editing software needed to create promotional videos from scratch and managing to complete some videos in the eight weeks given.
Victoria: I was in charge of a department’s social media pages. Seeing the number of page likes going up on a daily basis and seeing people comment that they like my blog were big achievements.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done, or what has surprised you the most?
Lucy: Having full control of a project and total responsibility was a surprise (but a nice one).
Madeleine: Getting used to the 9-5 routine was probably the most difficult thing – it makes you realise how luxurious student life really is!
Anthea: It’s surprising how much the work you do contributes to the work of the whole team. You’re not left to make tea all the time or to do odd jobs but given meaningful tasks that make your work seem worthwhile.
Anna: I did a presentation to the whole team and really enjoyed it. I was quite nervous, so I was surprised that it went so well!
What have you learnt so far this summer? This could be new or improved skills, greater confidence, or just learning what you enjoy doing most.
Adele: I’m learning so much about the voluntary sector. It’s been really interesting to learn more about the ‘behind the scenes’ parts of charities, including how to use the organisation’s database, which is incredibly useful. This list is definitely limited – I know that I’ve still got a lot more to learn in my role!
Catherine: I’ve learnt how to network, how to be assertive in managerial roles, and how to engage effectively with people from all walks of life.
Madeleine: My internship is helping me figure out what I want to do when I graduate. I’m gaining more skills, and figuring out what’s important to me.
Annie: My internship gives me a chance to be creative again, which has boosted my confidence about my creative skills in general (it’s easy to forget about that kind of thing when you do a science degree). I feel more confident in my presentation skills which I’m really happy about as this is a skill I’m definitely going to need in my career.
Harry: My communication skills have improved (ie emailing loads of different people, understanding how to have a professional phone call, taking part in meetings). I’ve also learnt how to be adaptable and change my style for each video I made for a variety of services.
Other skills that our SEIs say that they have developed are presentation skills, independence, and communication and analytical skills.
So I’d encourage you to take 15 minutes out of your busy summer schedule and ask yourself similar questions about your summer, no matter what you’ve been doing! When it comes to putting this experience down in words on your CV, it will be incredibly useful to remember exactly what skills you developed. If the answers our SEIs gave don’t inspire you, read up on employability skills and see if any apply to you. And don’t forget – even if your summer experience doesn’t feel particularly relevant to your future plans, you ARE gaining transferable skills.