DAMES: The redemption of February

February is the shortest month of the year, and yet we all hope it will move more quickly. Maybe it’s the snow, the unbearable polar vortex or the enticement of spring break that pushes us along, but February is definitely the month when summer is on everyone’s mind. At Undergraduate Career Services the summer discussion focuses around internships and post-graduate jobs, which makes sense. And February is the prime time for those discussions.

Some students, particularly juniors, may be participating in the on-campus interview program which is one tool in a vast toolbox; one that will yield positions for about 15 percent of the class. However, the majority of summer positions are secured in March and April. According to the 2013 Summer Activities Survey, more than 52 percent of students secured positions in March and April last year. Looking at the post-graduate search more than 60 percent of the Class of 2013 secured their position in the spring of senior year, with 27 percent accepting positions in March and April. Here again we may think February is obsolete, but I would argue that it is vitally important because the seeds sowed in February bear the flowers of March and April. Okay, admittedly metaphors are not my strength but you get the point.

Time is a precious thing at Yale. I am in constant awe over the number of activities that students manage, while at the same time carrying a full course load. You will never hear me say that the job search process is easy or quick. A good job search is a marathon, not a sprint, but with so many other obligations it can be challenging to maintain momentum. To make it manageable it needs to fit into your schedule. I often advise students to think of their job search as another class. As you create a schedule for yourself each week for course work, schedule in two to three hours a week for your job search. Each week will build upon the next, and as they build you will start to see results.

The resources at Yale to assist students with their summer and post-graduate plans are outstanding, almost to the point of overwhelming and there are some students who may be struggling with where to begin. My advice is simple: Take it in stages. Just as you would work through a course syllabus, you can work through a job search strategy. Each student’s strategy is unique. It may include steps such as developing a list of target organizations, contacting Yale alumni to learn more about a particular field and talking with fellow students about their experiences. Starting with a conversation about your interests and developing your unique strategy is the first step.

Some students may not be sure what they want to pursue, but they may know what they don’t want; that is just as valuable. Keep in mind that your summer experiences are a method to try different areas. Even at the stage of the post-graduate search, your first position after college will not define your career; it will just get you started. Careers move in the most unexpected ways, and according to the most recent data available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics the typical American worker’s tenure with his or her current employer is 4.1 years.

As the winter charges on and the next snow storm is around the corner, I recall a quote from Albert Camus: “In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.” I propose that is the way we should look at February, as a time for planning and a time to use the vast resources available at Yale to create an unforgettable summer.

Jeanine Dames is an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of Undergraduate Career Services. Contact her at  jeanine.dames@yale.edu .

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