Free time. A phrase that has always eluded me. Here are some things you could be doing this summer if you have more of it than me (not an extensive list, or a "this-is-how-to-get-a-job" list, either). These suggestions either cost very little or potentially earn a profit if played right...
- Teach yourself a new language, or sharpen your skills in one you've already started learning. I'd continue Italian or refresh my French. You could get used books or audio CDs cheap at a local bookstore, especially a University bookstore. Then load them into your iPod or stuff in your duffel bag for the beach. It will make you feel good AND help you when you're ready to re-enter the job market. Depending on your skill level, you could even market yourself as a tutor to local middle school and high school kids in your area. Sharpen your skills while bringing in the bucks - score!
- Travel abroad for cheap by couchsurfing, as my dear friend Maggie did recently. This is where you stay for free on a couch, floor, or random space in a local home. Blogger Nomadic Matt offers some helpful criteria on finding a worthy couchsurfing host and avoiding psycho-killer types. Or go through a program like "Por Vous Paris" which has a low fee and cheap rates to stay in an apartment with a French family. And while you're not taking up space in your parent's house, they could rent out your old space. Maybe host a foreign exchange student themselves, and then bail you out when you underestimated the exchange rate.
- Volunteer with a local non-profit or do a *gasp* unpaid internship. Ask if they'll offer a stipend for food and travel expenses in exchange for your time. There are a ton of interesting non-profits that would not only offer you practical work experience, but a sense of accomplishment and mentors to learn from (hate to say "networking opportunities" anymore). When doing a research report this semester on art galleries in Philadelphia, I learned that many opportunities are unpublished or not well publicized. If there's an organization you want to work for, get in touch with them directly and see what they're offering. Ditch the ol' Monster.com and see what's really hiding out there in the shadows.
- Babysitting never gets old. As an older babysitter, you can take care of older kids and do fun things with them like go to the amusement park, the local pool, or a fun museum. They will appreciate a day out of the house and you will have fun like a kid again. Also try dog-walking or some other small business that doesn't require a fancy résumé, just a little interpersonal communication skill.
- Create something. Make little tschotschkes and sell them on Etsy. Make canvas bags like my sister to sell to University students who can no longer afford Vera Bradley bags. Refinish an old side table that you found on the street corner to hold all the junk you're creating. Do something for the sake of manual labor.
- Sell something. Sell your old textbooks on eBay. Sell old clothing to the Buffalo Exchange, or the Salvation Army. Clean out your closets and that basement and garage, too. You never know what you might find. Have a yard sale. You'll be the most popular person on the block for a day and the worst that can happen is you get some fresh air and rub elbows with neighbors you never knew you had because you're all too busy social networking and Tweeting that you didn't know you lived next door to each other.
As a final note, I have also found that things come up in unexpected places and when you least expect it. So if you've sent out 50-100 resumes already, give it some time to brew. When the fall rolls around and hiring freezes are lifted (we hope) and after you've had an enjoyable, productive summer, you may just get a call from that dream job - or at least one offering a payroll. And by that point, you will have many more interesting things to talk about in your interview than just, "Well, I'm graduating, and I really need a job." Desperation is never attractive.
So what are your summer plans?