Important to stay focused during break

By Eleanor Blick

It’s something we all know deep down, but none of us wants to hear. On the never-ending list of student advice, it is just about the most dreaded reminder. No, it’s not the p-word (portfolio), and no, it’s not the n-word (networking). It’s a deafening combination of all the buzz words known to give students jitters.

Suggesting the time off during school breaks is best used working on resumes and making connections in our fields of study is not exactly the leisurely vacation most of us dream about. But competition in the job market, particularly media arts fields, is stiff as ever and it’s imperative to be prepared. Having time without classes means more time to work on a resume, compile a portfolio, make connections and stay on top of new strategies for marketing our work.

But I know what you’re thinking. “It’s vacation and I need to clear my head! I have a reading list I want to tackle! I just want to put my feet up and watch all of the ‘Gossip Girl’ episodes I missed! I don’t even know if Chuck Bass is alive, for crying out loud.”

I’ll be the first to admit I am not thrilled about using part of my vacation time to prepare for the real world, when all I want is an escape. When I visit home throughout holiday breaks I usually spend a few too many hours—OK, days—on my parents’ reclining couch, reveling in the forgotten luxury of cable television. I mindlessly enjoy absurd music countdown specials, home makeover stories and shows about meerkats.

But as graduation approaches and my nerves start to swell, it’s time to focus on the rapidly approaching future. Edward Hermann’s soothing historical narrations and comforting role as Grandpa Gilmore will have to go on without my lazy-day adoration this winter.

It’s OK to dream big, but it’s essential to be realistic. Full-time jobs in media arts fields are sparse, and we need to be three times as ambitious as the next hard worker to get where we want to be. Unfortunately, the time commitment this level of preparedness takes on top of classes and jobs would stretch many of us too thin. We have to use extra time to our advantage on the rare occasions we have it.

If I followed the job-seeking strategies and time frames of many experts, I would be past the phase of organizing my resume, putting together a portfolio and reaching out to companies I want to work for. At this point, I would be entrenched in the application and interview process. But these step-by-step guides aren’t applicable to every profession, so I devised my own strategy—one that didn’t involve organizing a portfolio nearly a year before I had any professional clips and recognized the realities of the profession I am choosing to enter.

Applications and interviews seem almost archaic in the rapidly changing world of media arts. Internships and freelancing are now the ways to get your foot in the door, but even those can be tricky to come by. You often need examples of professional work to get professional work; you need experience to get experience. It is a cyclical process everyone finds a way into eventually.

Because I have had work published in a few places, I feel my proverbial toolbox is properly equipped to put together the essential pieces I’ll need to present myself to prospective employers. During the upcoming winter break, I will spend extra free time building a website to showcase writing and photography samples, my resume and a biography. A website streamlines information employers look for, making it the most efficient way to present work.

As we come back from a short break and buckle down for the last three weeks of the semester, it will be hard to ignore daydreams of the long winter break coming up. While a little relaxation is necessary, it’s just as important to make the most of your time and stay focused on what you can do to help further your future goals now.