Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Shutterstock/GaudiLab Focused face? Check.
Change generation

Students: Be productive and make the most of your breaks from college

It’s not all about binging on box-sets: this is the time to feather your CV for future employers.

This article is part of our Change Generation project, supported by KBC. To read more click here.

OK, SO YOU’RE just into the new academic year but admit it: you’re already thinking about how to spend your breaks from college this year.

What to do? Catch up on the TV you missed while you were busy cramming? Cash in on some well-earned lie-ins?

Or, make the most of your time off?

Increasingly employers are looking for rich CVs from potential employees, full of extra activities that show how well-rounded a person you are.

Here is a list of some of the things you can do over your breaks from college to show how utterly employable you are.


Most employers now expect new recruits starting out in their first job to come into the office, onto the site or into the lab, ‘work-ready’.

shutterstock_353582696 Shutterstock / Shutterstock / /

Research from GradIreland shows a third of graduate employers for example, favour work experience over post-grad qualifications, and all of them will look for evidence of work experience, a placement, or internships when hiring. More than 80% of those companies will offer formal internships and some of them will even pay you.

GradIreland editor, Ruairí Kavanagh, says employers will want to see that you did something useful with your free time over the summer holidays. He said if there is a company you know you would like to work for you should approach them, even if they don’t appear to be offering internships.

“Employers will generally respond well to a well-written, friendly approach from someone. Most people are willing to help someone at that stage of life because we’ve all been there. So if you reach out and put together a reasonable proposal, I would think that’s definitely something you should do.”

Summer Job

While interning may mean you gain experience in the sector you are hoping to break into, it won’t do your peace of mind any good if your bank balance is giving you sweaty night terrors.

The solution in this case is to get a paying job. The good thing is that the jobs market has improved so your chances of getting casual work are better than they were even a year ago.

shutterstock_292810745 Shutterstock / Jen Bray Photogaphy Check out your local restaurants and cafes for work Shutterstock / Jen Bray Photogaphy / Jen Bray Photogaphy

Ask friends and relatives if they know of anything going, check out noticeboards and knock in to the local shop or business to find out if they have any vacancies.

Thankfully the internet is your friend here again and you can keep an eye on a myriad of websites for suitable jobs: and to name but a few.

Summer J-1

The J-1 Work and Travel Visa programme is open to full-time third-level students who are studying for a degree. If a student is doing a two-year cert or three-year diploma and doesn’t intend to (or can’t) follow on to a degree-level course, they won’t be eligible.

Final-year students can apply too. They will just need to be able to convince the US Embassy in Dublin of their intention to return to Ireland when the J-1 is up.

The programme has been running for decades, giving students the opportunity to experience life in the USA through travel and temporary work for up to four months during the summer holidays.

There are costs associated with the J-1 and some hoops to jump through too – find out more here.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also has some advice here.

This video from USIT Ireland is full of tips from students who have all done the J-1:

USIT / YouTube

Working abroad

Because Ireland is a member of the European Union, as an Irish person you are free to live and work in member States without the need for a visa. Information about jobs in the EU and what steps you will need to take in order to find employment abroad can be found here.

Some organisations also offer work and study programmes further afield in the likes of the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Here are a few of them:

  • Washington Ireland Programme - Summer internships in Washington, open to all students born in Ireland
  • AIESEC - is a worldwide student-run organisation that generates thousands of paid internships, summer and year-round, each year in nearly 110 countries. The internships range from those with a business or technical focus to teaching English. You can only apply through campus chapters.
  • IAESTE – Mainly for science and engineering students who want to spend their holidays working abroad.
  • BUNAC – International work and travel exchange programmes
  • Camp America – Thousands of students from all over the world go to work on summer camps across the USA.
  • IST Plus – Working holidays in the USA, Australia and New Zealand


Volunteering, aside from being good for society, benefits you as a person. Many organisations offer opportunities to third-level students to volunteer abroad as part of charitable projects, which can be powerful and rewarding experiences. Volunteering will enhance your professional development, while diversifying your experience and knowledge.

You don’t have to go to another country to volunteer though. There are countless local groups and organisations, like breakfast clubs and parent and toddler groups, where you can donate your time.

14/8/2012. Charity shops Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The great thing about volunteer work is that as well as being rewarding on a personal level, it will also be looked on favourably by future employers.

To find out about volunteer work in Ireland go to Volunteer Ireland

For overseas volunteering opportunities visit

Read: Budgeting is boring? A guide to why – and how – you need to master the purse strings

Read: Letters to a Fresher: College graduates tell us what they wish they’d known in first year

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.