summer experience

Three Tips to Steer Your Career Path During the Summer Months

Guest post by Kevin Cary, who writes about topics related to the college experience for

With the spring semester over, many Syracuse students are doing summer internships or continuing their education through summer classes. But while many students are taking a break until the fall, experts say the summer time is not a time to pause from making decisions about your career path.

“The summer months may be a down time as far as not having classes or major distractions, but that’s a great time to focus on which particular field you want to pursue after college,” said Geoff Peterson, a recruiting expert and the managing principal of General Lead.

Those who have lined up summer internships are one step ahead, but for those who haven’t, here are three key things to do to help narrow your focus:

Research, research, research. Learn as much about potential career fields as possible. What is the job outlook for a particular field? What are the expectations in the field?

Peterson advises using search engines such as to determine the expected growth of a particular field. There may also be other opportunities to explore fields, including volunteering or shadowing a professional in the field.Bob Roth, a Syracuse alumnus who later served as a college recruiter and wrote the book “The College Student’s Guide To Landing A Great Job,” said that students should also not hesitate to use a parent to give them guidance.

“Parents may be a positive influence because they may be able to remember areas where the student had success in the past,” Roth said. “Of course, the parents have to remember that they can’t impose their will on the student. If the student truly loves and respects their parent, they will listen to them, but if they don’t, they won’t.

”Roth said that students can also consider older relatives, or even older students who helped mentor them early in their college life. But, ultimately, the decision will be up to the student. “Listen to everybody, but ultimately pick something you like,” he said.

Engage through social networks and more. The explosion of social media can be greatly beneficial to college students as they navigate their career paths, Peterson said. He recommends that students read industry blogs and make connections with corporate and agency recruiters through LinkedIn.

“Be very detailed with your bio and add a good number of keywords,” he said. “Recruiters find people inside LinkedIn using advanced search, mainly searching bios for keywords.”There are other techniques to succeed on LinkedIn, but networking doesn’t have to be limited to social media. Roth said students should use the career services department, but should also consider every resource available to them on campus.

“Every person on a campus has a network,” he said. “Students need to realize that everyone they interact with can help them. Each person on campus probably knows at least 75 other people. There is a vast network that is often not used.”

Don’t procrastinate. Research and networking can help narrow down career choices, but don’t be paralyzed from the new information. There may be other factors that can create anxiety and delay decisions, but experts say it is vital to narrow down your career choice as soon as possible.“Ideally, you’d want to get started during the senior year of high school,” Roth said. “Determine your major, determine what employers expect, and develop a semester-by-semester plan. Get involved in some kind of work, whether or not it directly relates to your field, to help build references for your work history.

It may be tempting to consider the summer as a “break” period, but Peterson said that can be a major mistake that can create more work and financial burdens down the road. “If students drag their feet into the third year and beyond, they risk spending more time in school, having to take more classes and adding additional tuition costs,” he said.

Making a decision to pursue a career path doesn’t mean you can’t ever change your mind about it. But, the earlier the initial decision is made, the more time you have to better understand what to do next.

“If you start early enough, it gives you a little time to adjust your plan,” Roth said. “Every year that slips by means you have a little less time. The time to start is now.”


Tips for Internship Success from a Recent Intern

by Cristina Nogueras, SU ’12

This summer I had the opportunity to be part of the Grow @ Grey internship program offered by Grey Group Puerto Rico. I was officially a public relations intern, but was also assigned tasks from other departments. Although I did learn a lot of technical skills in my internship, I want to share with you some practical things that can really apply to any field.

Always be prepared. Of all the things I learned during the 12 years I was a Girl Scout, that motto has turned out to be more relevant and useful than I thought.

I could not be present the first day of my internship this summer because I was sick, so my first day was really every other intern’s second day. I dressed very professionally and, in fact, seemed a bit overdressed. It turns out I made a good and professional first day impression. This brings me to the first thing I learned in my internship: It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Be careful with what you say. I was walking in a parking lot with my supervisor and one of our clients, and as part of our light chat I commented that I did not like a specific car that was parked there. It turned out that the client’s spouse owned one. I was lucky that saying a car is ugly is not a big deal, but just imagine if I would have commented on something more serious, like politics or even a person. This does not mean that you can’t speak your ideas and opinions, but always be respectful and keep in mind that what you say might hit a nerve.

“There are no stupid questions.” I had heard this a thousand times, but I had not internalized it until this summer. It turns out it’s better to ask a “stupid” question than to work two hours on the wrong document just because you didn’t ask… because you thought it was a stupid question.

Punctuality is supposed to be a “must” with everything you do; keep it that way. Being a punctual person not only reflects your commitment, it also shows you’re reliable. Even if people working above you are not punctual and even if you can be 10 minutes late without a remark, stay punctual.

Don’t lie about what you can do. If your supervisors assign you a task that you don’t know how to do, don’t lie and say that you know how to do it. Instead, be honest but say that you will learn how to do it and ask questions. This will not only show your integrity, it will also demonstrate your dedication to what you do.

This advice is pertinent to any field you might be interested in entering. Technical skills are essential, but it’s the little details that tend to remain more present on the mind of your employer. The way you carry yourself professionally, at the end of the day, will set you apart from other interns.