How to Develop Your Student's Career Over the Holiday

Hannah Guffey – December 5th, 2016

With winter break just around the corner, your student may be feeling a number of emotions about classes, majors, careers, and the future. One of the best things you can do as a parent is to listen and keep an open mind when it comes to your student’s academic major and career decision planning. Consider some of the following ideas from the UVA Career Center for supporting your student over the next few weeks as they reflect on the past semester and look for ways to actively explore their interests and career goals over vacation.


The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, especially your student who may be faced with questions from excited friends and family members about what they hope “to do” with that major or what plans are for “after graduation.” One of the most powerful things you can do for your student is to provide a supportive place to be themselves and listen to their thoughts. Showing understanding and validating your student’s uncertainty and/or current plans and interests will likely be welcomed and much needed. Consider sharing your own life experiences with navigating the career decision making process as this can help normalize your student’s experience, whatever that may be.

Encourage self-reflection.

Encourage using the next few weeks for self-reflection. With a break from academic deadlines and constant obligations with extracurricular activities and events, winter break can be a great time to encourage your student to reflect on the previous semester. No matter where your student is in the career development process, spending time identifying core values, interests, and skills is time well spent. Encourage your student to sign up for a Career Exploration Workshop next semester, complete a career related assessment like the Strong Interest Inventory, and/or meet with a Career Counselor to learn more about how this information can be used when considering majors, internships, and possible jobs.

Help with Networking

Help your student connect with others and learn to network in a safe environment. Networking can sound like an intimidating word, but it’s also a strategy that results in some of the highest percentages of professional opportunities for students. Support your student’s networking efforts through helping to identify individuals within your personal and professional circles who would be willing to chat with your student about what they do and how they navigated their own career paths. Encourage your student to create a LinkedIn account and use this resource to identify UVa alumni working in fields of interest to connect with for informational interviews. Inform your student about the benefits of working with a mentor and encourage them to participate in our Virginia Alumni Mentoring program to learn more.

Value of New Experiences

Know the value of experimenting with experiences in various environments. With winter break lasting only a few weeks, helping your student find a formal internship will be hard. However, your student can still be proactive in acting on their interests in a number of ways including scheduling informational interviews with networking contacts/alumni and creating opportunities for hands-on experiences through an “externship,” job shadowing, and part-time work. One of the best ways to determine what you like and what you don’t is to try it out first! These opportunities allow your student to do just that within a safe environment that requires no long term commitment. Volunteer work can also provide wonderful learning experiences and numerous opportunities are easily accessed over the holidays. Whatever your student chooses to do, encourage them to do so with intention and understand how these experiences can help to inform self-reflection, future decisions, and develop relevant skillsets.

Industry & Opportunity Exploration

Challenge your student to explore various industries and find upcoming opportunities through utilizing Handshake and other Career Center resources. Your student has access to a number of valuable industry resources through the Career Center, and winter break is a perfect time to start this research! Inform your student of the resources available through the Career Center website and in Handshake under the “Resources” section. Here, your student can spend time learning about various job titles and industries through Career Insider by Vault, learn about the major/career connection through What Can I Do with this Major?, and search for relevant jobs and internships through Handshake and CareerShift. Connecting with a Career Community will also help your student to stay updated about upcoming programs and events related to their interests. Career Communities provide students with tailored resources through weekly newsletters and industry specific programming throughout the semester. Most of our Career Communities will be taking students on “Career Treks” over winter break and during spring break, where your student will have the chance to meet directly with employers and learn more about specific roles.

Encourage Job Search

Encourage your student to begin the job/internship search and/or create a resume if they haven’t already done so. Let them make the decision. If your student is considering an internship or job for the summer, now is a great time to start the search process. Additionally, winter break is a great time for your student to reflect on what they have accomplished so far and how they can best represent that through professional application materials like a resume, cover letter, or personal statement (if applying to graduate school). It is important, however, that your student make this decision and acknowledge this as a priority for themselves.

Tell them to meet with us!

Remind your student to make an appointment with the Career Center for over winter break and/or at the beginning of the spring semester. The Career Center will be open over winter break and career counselors will be available to meet with your student by appointment in person, via skype, or over the phone. Your student doesn’t need to have a plan in place before speaking with a counselor, that’s what we’re here for. We will also resume offering general career advising office hours in our location in Newcomb Hall 170 from 12 – 5 pm on January 18th where your student can come meet with a counselor without an appointment for 15 minutes to discuss any of the above.

Stay Connected

Stay updated regarding Career Center events by following us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). With so many events going on throughout the semester, the best way to ensure your student is up to date is to refer to our Career Center events calendar through Handshake. Here, they can see upcoming career fairs, like the 2017 UVA Job and Internship Fair, employer information sessions, career exploration workshops, and industry specific programs.

At the Career Center, we strive to support your students’ holistic career development to help them launch personally and professionally fulfilling lives. Please don’t hesitate to connect with us to learn more about how you can help us to achieve this goal. Happy Holidays!