Put in work during winter break


By Luke Vest

Winter break is a great time to relax after the stress of finals, providing a way to get your mind off of school.

During the semester, there is not as much time as we would like to pursue  our own personal endeavors, and while it is important to rest during break and let your mind recover after a long semester, it is also important to utilize this time to develop skills that could further your career. Many classes we take during our undergraduate careers are spent learning the theory behind certain concepts, and often times hands-on experience must be done on our own time, outside of classes and school.

During break, many of us spend time with our families and friends at home, but it is wise to allocate our time just as we do at school to maximize productivity. Winter break is the perfect opportunity to flesh out certain projects because we are able to give our full attention to them. 

Try making a schedule of things that you want to accomplish during the day, such as working on personal assignments and practicing professional skills.

According to an article in Forbes, the top four skills that employers look for in potential employees are critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgment and decision-making, and active listening.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

I believe that these qualities are significantly developed in school. For instance, students learn to decide how to manage their time effectively, and exams call for students to think critically about what they have learned in class to solve complex problems.

These “soft” skills, which are abilities that are more general and associated with aspects like work ethic and communication, are undoubtedly essential for working professionals, but the technical skills that you can acquire in your free time make you more versatile and can tip the balance when you are applying for jobs, hence why winter break is the perfect time to work on some of these projects.

For someone like me who is in electrical and computer engineering, a common technical skill that employers look for in employees is computer programming. Common forms of programming include website and mobile application development.

You don’t need a degree in computer science to be able to program, and in fact, you could learn to make your first website over break. It probably won’t be the most visually appealing site, but one can easily learn the basics of web development in a month with the vast amount of resources that are available for free on the Internet.

Learning to make websites is very useful for those interested in marketing a product or promoting an organization. Programming is a desirable skill because it can allow you to perform otherwise tedious tasks at work, such as calculating sales quickly, and it can help you to widely advertise your company. 

Aside from learning a technical skill this break, also take time to work on projects such as polishing your resume. Work on an elevator pitch — a minute long speech that summarizes your profession and skills.

The University stresses the importance of being able to market one’s self when looking for a job, through events such as career fairs, so developing your professional image is crucial to increasing your desirability as an employee. Employers want to hire people who look professional and have the appropriate qualifications.

It takes time to learn something new such as computer programming, for example, but investing the time into developing a skill during break may give you the initial energy you need to continue practicing it daily. I think it is easier to keep practicing something once you have some experience as opposed to when you are just starting out.

You may even find that you have discovered a new passion. When returning to school in January, you might find that you no longer have as much time to practice your new skill or work on your personal projects, but since you have already taken the steps to start working on something new, you are much better off than you were before.

Take time to have fun during break, but remember productivity is also necessary during this month of freedom.

Luke is a freshman in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected].