With endless weeks of lazy days looming just around the corner following weeks of demanding examinations, this year’s matrics should consider giving themselves the gift of a lifetime – by using their downtime in a way that will push them ahead of their peers even before they enter tertiary studies.
Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education, says while school-leavers deserve to give themselves a solid break, they should not lose sight of the fact that in the grown-up world they are now entering, competition is tough and time lost is opportunity lost.
“It really is possible to both have a good time and get some rest while still doing something productive and lasting during this festive season,” she says.
“In fact, school leavers should consider giving themselves a gift that will stand them in good stead when they need to start preparing their CVs and have to demonstrate why they are different to the rest of the crowd applying for the same position,” she says.
“Alternatively, they should focus on what they will need most when they start studying next year, and make sure they are ahead of the pack.
“The long holiday period provides the perfect opportunity to get your head in the right space, learn a new skill, or start something new,” says Coughlan.
Her TOP FIVE IDEAS for productively filling the summer hours are:
1) LEARN TO TYPE
This may sound very strange in the modern age, but many young people type with only a few fingers and are not in fact proficient. Once they are studying or working, most of what they communicate in writing will come off a keyboard. Learning to touch type will add immeasurably to efficiency. There are free downloadable programmes that are game-based and students can compete against themselves or others.
2) CLEAN UP YOUR ONLINE PROFILE
The surge in social media usage in all walks of life means that recruiters and potential employers are able to find a lot more information about you, before you even walk through the door of an interview room. Make sure that what they find in a year or two when they start looking, presents you in the best possible light. Fix your privacy settings and look for photographs in which you have been tagged. Actively create an on-line presence that positions you as more than a wild child.
If you are really dedicated, you could even set up a blog – an increasingly popular form of personal expression that can really help set you apart from future competition, by giving personality to your application. Easy to set up and free, this is your chance to get your name out there. Be careful though – this is only for the really committed, as you need something meaningful to say. And at all times remember that you are creating impressions… Make them count!
3) LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE
Let’s face it – far too many South Africans are still not proficient in our own languages. If you cannot speak more than your own mother tongue and perhaps one other local language, now is the time to tackle this. Language proficiency (particularly in the professions) is no longer only a ‘nice to have’. If you are already proficient in three or more SA languages it could be time to begin to tackle the basics of an international business language – like French or Mandarin or Portuguese.
4) TAKE ON A LIFESTYLE SPORT
At school you would probably have been required to play a sport – normally a team sport. Very few of us maintain that after school and certainly even fewer after tertiary study. This holiday is the holiday to start participating in a sport or other physical activity that you can carry with you in to the world of work – gym, running, cycling or yoga are only some possibilities. It is well understood that your future health and happiness are tied to your level of physical wellbeing, so the sooner you start the habit of participating in an activity you can do as an adult alongside your work, the better.
5) VOLUNTEERING or RAISING FUNDS FOR A WORTHWHILE CAUSE
Register your name on a charity’s website and become a volunteer or fundraiser, or approach a local religious or community organisation directly. Making a difference to the lives of others is immensely satisfying, and will help you stay grounded and focused as you enter adulthood. It will also demonstrate to future employers that your world is about more than just yourself, and that you have applied your talents for the greater good. And it gives you an environment to practise work appropriate skills like planning and communication and teamwork.
“At the end of the holidays, you will enter your new life with an added sense of purpose rather than just wondering where the time went. This is a great gift to yourself,” Coughlan says.
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