For many students, winter break means spending time with family, catching up on sleep and eating holiday delicacies. But for some, the break is an opportunity to get ahead with career experience.

While students who attend universities with long winter breaks can take on short internships over the holiday vacation, University of Michigan students do not have this option since winter break is less than two weeks long. However, career experts say students should still make use of the time to explore their field of interest, even if they shadow a professional for only a few days.

Because the University’s winter break is shorter than many other colleges, Lynne Sebille-White, assistant director of the University’s Career Center, said University students tend to seek mentorships over the break, and opt to save internships for summer.

“In order for an internship to be beneficial for both the employer and the intern, it helps to have more time — two or three months — for this opportunity,” she said.

However, Sebille-White said there are still opportunities for career development during shorter breaks. She said students can contact professionals in the field they’re interested in and find out information about a particular career path to see if it’s something they would like to do.

“Students can use the time to explore options, build their professional skills and expand their community,” she said.

Aspiring to be a doctor, LSA freshman Osman Alam said a winter break internship could set him apart as an applicant when he applies for medical school in the future. A winter break internship involving research or shadowing a doctor is something he said he’s interested in doing next year, but for this break, Alam said he’ll be vacationing in Florida.

Like Sebille-White, Jan Nickless, senior associate director of Internal Relations and Human Resources at Indiana University Bloomington, said she hasn’t helped students secure winter break internships, simply because there isn’t enough time.

She said Indiana University’s three-week break wouldn’t be long enough for a formal internship, but she also recommended students participate in career shadowing. She suggested that students could make use of their free time during break by volunteering, doing informational interviews and working part-time.

Greg Iaccarino, senior career and internship coordinator and adviser at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, said most students he assists engage in shadowing programs over winter break instead of internships. The career center helps students find mentors in areas they’re interested in, and former students have shadowed at companies like Google and Target, as well as local news stations and museums, he said.

Despite the University of Michigan’s short winter break, Sebille-White said she doesn’t believe students are at a disadvantage for getting internships that are available in the winter. And since the University’s winter term ends in April, she said University students have an advantage in obtaining longer-term summer internships.

She also said employers don’t expect students to get an internship over winter break since many companies experience slower business or are closed during the holidays.

Like many other University of Michigan students, LSA sophomore Bianca Payton said she won’t be getting an internship this winter break. Payton said she’s more focused on internships starting in May, and hadn’t considered the possibility of an internship for the upcoming break.

“I haven’t found any interesting internships for the summer, let alone found any for winter break,” Payton said.

At some universities with longer winter breaks, however, some students are taking advantage of this time to do internships, hoping they’ll lead to summer internships.

Ohio University’s winter break is six weeks long and is known as “Mid-Winter Intercession.” Since the period is so long, Hugh Martin, associate director for undergraduate studies at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, said it isn’t uncommon for students to get internships during this time.

“There’s a big focus on helping students get internships, and they do get them during the winter break,” Martin said. “It’s not unusual … several students I advise are in New York and various places doing internships over this break.”

Tom Dezell, author of “Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naive Job Seeker,” said getting a winter internship can be a foot in the door with a company and can potentially lead to long-term employment.

“Starting a job and career will require a pending graduate to begin building a network … which will allow you to tap into their networks as your full job search begins,” Dezell said.

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