Some programs might be a bit different, but at my school, the University of Denver, we get a long break between our Fall and Winter quarters—from about mid-November to the second week of January. Some programs may not get quite as much time off, but most programs will be out of session for some time surrounding the Winter holidays. For this reason, I wanted to consider how best to use all that free time. In this post, I’ll share a few of my own thoughts, but ultimately I want to invite an open discussion down in the comments!
It seems to me that there are different tasks first and second-year MLIS/MLS students can do to best maximize their Winter Breaks. Let’s start by considering the situation of the first year student.
For First Year Students:
Networking! This can be a good time to get to know your classmates and professors a little bit better. With everyone under less pressure over the break, you’re more likely to get responses from people. Further, this can be a good time for you to reach out to professionals working in the field you’re interested in. These things may feel a bit like a chore when all you really want to do is sit down with a mug of cocoa (or maybe something a little stronger) and read, but networking pays off in so many ways, as several writers here at HLS have shown.
Take stock of what you’ve learned so far. Take some time to go back over your assignments. Again, this can feel like a chore while you’re on break, but it can be valuable. Doing so can help ingrain some things you’ve learned in your long-term memory and this process might even help you identify some gaps in your learning that you can address in future terms.
Applying for part-time jobs, graduate assisstantships and other appointments. If you don’t already have a library/archive/etc. job of some kind, this could be the perfect time to tackle that. It’s always wise to ensure that you get some real-world library experience as you go through your MLIS program. Not to mention, you probably have bills to pay, of course!
Otherwise, this is a good time to get involved in extracurricular activities, including professional organizations and other clubs that are either suited to your career goals, or just a chance to have fun with new friends.
For Second Year Students:
One of the biggest things that you should be doing during the Winter Break of your second year is to hit the job search hard. This is especially true for those of us interested in academic libraries. Most faculty and other academic positions are posted around November and December, and the jobs themselves start sometime in Spring or Summer. So, the Winter Break is really the best time to be updating your CV/resume, working on cover letters and presentations, and digging into job listings.
Networking even more! Hopefully you’ve made some good contacts in your first year. If so, you should continue nurturing those relationships. If you have not made those contacts, definitely do so now.
For All Students:
Updating portfolios of research and other work. At DU, our program requires us to keep an updated portfolio of work online. The requirements are pretty bare-bones for this, but it is something worth taking very seriously, even if your program does not require one at all. Keep an up-to-date list of assignments you’re particularly proud of and speak to your skills.
Always take the time to hone your CV or resume, whether you plan to apply for jobs soon or not. These documents are really time consuming, and it’s good to work on them as you go along, rather than putting them together the day before your job application is due. That’s just a recipe for disaster!
Last but certainly not least: Self-care! Take time to breathe. Many of us work a job or two on top of school, and it really does take a lot out of you! Make sure to take a few days to relax and decompress. Things that could help clear your mind include catching up on your favorite shows, going for walks, taking a scenic drive and just about anything else you enjoy and isn’t terribly brain-intensive. Small organizational tasks can be both useful and therapeutic–things like organizing your Google Drive or your computer’s Desktop, cleaning your living space, or taking the time to get that haircut you’ve been putting off. It’s easy to get caught up in making every minute of your Winter Break count, but a body needs to rest.
Tell us what you think! I have a few ideas for making the most of your Winter Break, but what are some of your thoughts? What’s worked for you in the past, or what do you plan to do in your future breaks?