From volunteering to summer courses, or simply doing nothing, there are plenty of ways to get the best out of your time off.
Spending some time volunteering is a great way to increase your skills, try out different types of work and add to your CV.
Whatever job you ultimately aspire to, you can probably find a volunteer opportunity that matches it somehow. Even if you end up stuffing envelopes or making tea, volunteering gives you a valuable insider’s view of different organisations, and will help you make good contacts at the same time.
There are lots of different organisations that can point you in the right direction for volunteering opportunities. Volunteering England lists organisations which are looking for volunteers, and volunteering charity V promotes youth volunteering in England.
If you're prepared to live away from home then you can volunteer for longer periods through organisations such as Community Service Volunteers, which will find you a placement for up to 12 months, and you’ll also get an allowance and free accommodation and food.
Charity work abroad
For an adventure even further afield, why not consider volunteering overseas.
People who volunteer internationally develop expertise that addresses UK skills gaps, according to research by the Chartered Management Institute and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) – which recruits volunteers aged between 18 and 75 to live and work in the heart of local communities across the world .
Their survey of 100 VSO volunteers found that 80 per cent believed they returned with expertise that they would not have gained in the UK. Around half also claimed that voluntary work helped them develop problem solving abilities (57 per cent) and influencing skills (46 per cent).
Giving up your time for free to help other people will increase your own experience and impress the organisations to which you eventually apply for a job.
Attending a summer school or taking other short courses in your break can help boost your academic progress by building on your knowledge of an existing subject or studying something totally new.
You could pick a course at somewhere local to you, or even at one of the country’s top universities, if you fancy a chance of scene.
If you choose a course somewhere different from where you usually study you will meet other students – probably from all over the world – who also share your passions. What’s more, most courses do not require previous knowledge of the subject, and some even let you gain extra academic credits.
Spending some of your holiday networking is a great way to build your connections and increase your chances of eventually getting the job you really want.
Talk to everyone you know and tell them that what you are studying and the type of work you are looking for in future. Ask them to tell their friends, family and colleagues about you, and give them your contact details so they can get in touch if anything comes up.
Take the opportunity to go to conferences and industry shows for the sector you want to work in. The IET offers a wide range of events that fit the bill, so be sure to check out the IET events calendar. These are a great way to meet people and learn more about the kind of career you want to pursue.
Also take advantage of social and professional networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By registering with these you can connect with friends, colleagues and even strangers, and spread the word about your job hunt even further.
The benefits of downtime
Non-stop working isn’t good for our health or wellbeing, so make sure you also take some time off during your summer holiday.
Just because we are surrounded by all this smart technology, which makes us feel we can keep working and stay in touch with people easily and quickly, doesn’t mean we should never switch it off and take a break. In fact, research shows that pushing yourself to work all the time can reduce productivity and disrupt things like sleep patterns.
“No one can afford to skip rest, and anyone's work will be refreshed and restored from some time off,” says Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. “Focus, willpower and the ability to tackle difficult projects all draw from a limited reserve of energy. When you deplete these reserves the quality of your work plummets, along with the usual pleasure of working on something important.”
Let yourself have some downtime, as well as trying out something new this summer, and you’ll return to your studies rested and raring to go.