You worked that summer job, you took that internship, you traveled to that country...now what?
In the beginning there's a mad dash not to be the only one of your friends not making some kind of significant advancement in your own development over the summer. The purpose and meaning behind your initial intentions can become somewhat convoluted, unclear, or altogether forgotten. This is normal. While you were out slaying the intern dragon, mastering your field research demons, or getting familiar with the unfamiliar outside your comfort zone in another country, keeping the original context in mind may have seemed a little tricky.
So now what? Why is any of this even important?
It's over, maybe you had the best experience of your life. Maybe last summer is an experience best left in the past and forgotten. In either case, how you choose to extract your learning from the situation can benefit to your personal and professional development. Your experience might have deepened your interest in a particular field or introduced you to a new passion altogether. You may have confirmed what you do NOT want to pursue for a career or changed your mind about something you were sure you disliked. Your experience might have also showed you a skill you never knew you possessed or challenged you in a way never thought you could overcome.
All of this is valuable knowledge.
We often forget that experience, like feedback, is useful knowledge in our growth. Learning how to reflect on, and talk about your experiences is an incredibly useful skill, especially in a job interview or grad school application. Many potential employers will want to know what you've done and how you've learned from past experiences.
So what are some ways you can make the most of your previous summer experience?
1) Find a way to talk about your experience with others.
This can happen through small group discussions with like-minded or "like-interested" folks or on online forums where you can delve into content specific topics. Talking about your experience can also mean presenting to a small group.
2) Complete the Things I've Learned Exercise
Doing any kind of reflection writing about your experience is extremely useful. You can also be more focused in your approach. Try this: Write out at least 10- 15 things you learned from your experience. Along with each item write out what you will do as a result of learning that particular piece of information.
Learned Thing: I learned that hard science really interests me.
Action: I'll take a few science courses this Fall or talk to a professor in the Science dept.
Learned Thing: I learned that I get really home sick easily.
Action: I may want to choose a grad program that closer to home or will allow me the ability to travel home more frequently.
Learned thing: I really hated being stuck in a lab all day.
Action: I'm going to explore ways I can stay connected to my passion without having to be stuck indoors for long periods of time.
3) Give yourself credit.
It's important that you acknowledge your efforts this summer. You did it. You made an investment in you. And even though there may have been some things you would have liked to change or improve you know more now that you did last summer and you can use that information to plan your next move.
So, what did you do this summer? What's the next step? What did you learn and what will you do with that knowledge? Leave your comments below and let us know how you did it. You can also head over to our Facebook page.
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