Use Summer to Advance Career Development



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D. 

Has your summer job or internship possibility gone awry amidst the pandemic? Wondering what you will do this summer as you bunker down to protect you and your family from COVID-19?  With all the uncertainty, you might be tempted to sit back, play video games, work on your suntan, and essentially do nothing constructive.  But an assistant director at the UofL University Career Center is here to tell you this is a great time for students to get a move-on to advance their future.

Mallory Newby says the public health crisis creates a unique career development opportunity. “I encourage students to take this time to advance their technical knowledge/skills and overall professional development to demonstrate to employers that they are being proactive during challenging times and help to gain a competitive edge in a tight labor market.”

One place to start is by visiting the “Learn” section of the University of Louisville’s Center for Digital Transformation to take advantage of a variety of free badging and certification courses.  Newby said UofL has several partnerships with Google, Microsoft Learn and IBM to name a few, offering free mini courses ranging from beginner to advanced levels. “There are literally hundreds and hundreds to choose from and if you don’t consider yourself to be the most tech savvy person, look at the beginner level and fundamental types of courses.  I would personally recommend the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals course to gain a basic understanding of cloud concepts, as well as an overview of the core Microsoft 365 services like Teams, SharePoint, and Stream and how to use these tools to maintain and enhance productivity.”

LinkedIn Learning is another good source for additional professional development training on topics like discovering your strengths, personal branding and even productivity tips.  In addition, sites like EdX and Coursera offer free college courses that are recorded or streamed from world renown universities like Stanford and Harvard.  These courses can potentially parallel a career area in which you are interested or a topic area in which you are looking for cultural and intellectual enrichment.  

Newby said to be sure to search or look for "no cost" and "free" in the listings.  “As a general rule, most badges are free but formal exam certifications might cost to take the test following the course. UofL’s Center for Digital Transformation recommends never paying with a credit card unless you are wanting to cover the cost for a certification exam. I personally have not elected to pay for the completion certificates and would probably not encourage students to do so either. After passing any badge or certification level, you may still be awarded a digital credential emblem or symbol.  Regardless you can still display completion of these trainings on your resume, LinkedIn account or other professional documents.”

Some other ideas for summer career development: 

  • Think about a possible research project.  You may be able to work on something on your own, or possibly can partner with a professor who has an interest in an area you want to advance.
  • Create your own summer project.  It could be something like writing a blog, producing some type of video, or even starting a small business in your neighborhood.  Pick a project that helps you to develop a skill set, advancing and moving you toward your career ambitions.
  • Volunteer to do work in your community.  Service work fosters leadership skills and is something that shines on your record of achievement.
  • If you are thinking about a master’s degree or professional degree program after your undergraduate degree, the coronavirus outbreak and summer 2020 make it a great time to start researching programs in which you have an interest.  You can also use the time to start preparing for entrance exams like the GRE, MCAT and LSAT.  The UofL Graduate School has information on getting ready for the exam. 

These are just some ideas for how to make the best use of summer 2020 as you travel down your chosen career path. For more ideas, check out this article from Washington University in St. Louis.