Written by: Austin Henline | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Many people view summer as the time to take a break from school, work, and daily routines. It’s the time where you can forget your responsibilities for a season and focus on the sun and sand. However, summer isn't always just fun and games. If you feel stuck with your job or want to get ahead in school, summer is the perfect time to do so. Whether you are a college student, entry level worker, mid-career professional, or an established expert, anyone can benefit from receiving a career certification during the summer months.
We have asked experts from various backgrounds and industries why summer is the perfect time to pursue a career certification. From flexible class schedules and lower demand to increased employment security and testimonials, check out what the professionals have to say.
Flexible class schedules
Most career certification institutions have classes year-round with start dates happening every few weeks. If you've already done your research and know what certification you want to pursue, chances are that classes can start immediately. Since most classes are available online, you can work during the day and start classes at night. Caitlin Proctor, a resume writer and career expert at Zipjob, shares why summer is an excellent time to pursue a career certification:
“Certifications are an excellent way for job seekers to learn new skills. The summer is a great opportunity for people in many professions to gain new skills and certifications due to the long days and perhaps more relaxed company policies. Summer certifications can take a matter of hours or several weeks, but can be a powerful motivation to combat otherwise lazy summer days. Find something you're excited to learn about — there's probably a class you can take to learn more! The timing is good, too, because you can finish your certifications before year-end performance reviews.”
Whether you want to work full-time throughout the summer or dedicate all your time to studying, career certifications offer a flexibility that is suitable for almost anyone.
The lower demand for formal education and career certifications during summer months creates unique benefits. First, the lower number of students during the off season can lead to better deals from institutions looking to increase class sizes. Another benefit to lower demand and class sizes is the increased ability to network with teachers and fellow students. Roger Maftean, a career expert at Resumelab, describes how smaller class sizes can lead to more valuable connections:
"You need to weigh your pros and cons here. Breaking into the job market from the entry-level position is a challenge for most graduates, and landing a job that you actually want will require you to put your best foot forward. So it's either sunshine and that long-awaited Europe trip or a chance to get upskilled and rise above the crowd when the time comes. There's a wide choice of summer certifications. While these might be less occupied, [students] get more undivided attention from the patrons and make it easier to initiate valuable connections."
Those connections may prove to be valuable in a job market that is more competitive than ever. Rather than viewing your peers as competition, see them as friends that can put in a good word for you at any future company they work for. Employee referrals have the highest hiring conversion rate. Only 7 percent of applicants are referred by employees, yet 40 percent of all hires are a result of an employee referral. Whether you take an online certification course or an in-person class, take advantage of the resources that are available to you and make connections.
Learn new skills that recruiters look for
Not only are summer career certifications a great option for students, but for working professionals as well. A certification can boost marketable skills in a niche area for college students and mid-career professionals looking to make a transition. Sharvin Maisuria, Professional Faculty and Head of Career Development at MacCormac College explains the unique value certifications can provide for job seekers and professionals:
“Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for both hard and soft skills when hiring. The hard skills they are looking for are technical skills of that specific job: Will they actually be able to do/complete the functions that their job requires? The soft skills are interpersonal skills, communication, the ability to work within a team, etc. Essentially, will the individual be able to fit within the culture of the company as a whole?
A career certificate can help develop hard skills that recruiters are looking for because they are teaching to the specific skills needed for a particular job, almost similar to an apprenticeship.”
Due to the increased usage of applicant tracking systems, candidates are constantly searching for new ways to bypass the automated systems. Throwing in cliche keywords and buzzwords will not set your resume apart. Career certifications are an excellent way to show, not tell employers about marketable skills that you possess.
Show your dedication for personal improvement
A career certification shows that you are willing to invest in yourself and sacrifice time and fun now, in order to become a greater asset to a company in the future. While everyone else is away for the summer partying, you’re studying and growing yourself professionally. Maciej Duszynski, a resume expert and career advice writer at Zety, wonderfully addresses how employers view candidates who have a career certification:
“In today’s competitive job market, it might be everything but easy to rise above the noise. But if you leverage the summertime to secure a recognized benchmark mapped to a specific skill, you’ll enjoy a plethora of career benefits. One of the major benefits of having a career certification under your belt is that it shows employers both your dedication and your willingness to spend every ounce of your energy to grow professionally and thus bring more value to the company. As a result, a career certification launches your hireability chances into the stratosphere. Other benefits include better odds of job retention and improved career progression with an organization.”
Most people are probably familiar with the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. Children who refrained from eating a marshmallow for an extended period of time in order to receive an additional marshmallow were found to have better life outcomes in the future. Although pursuing a career certification in the summer is not exactly the marshmallow experiment, the two share some surprising similarities in the eyes of an employer. Your dedication and ability to invest in yourself will speak volumes about your professionalism and can be the deciding factor between you and another applicant.
Boost employment security after college
With the rise of the internet and new information technologies, change is constant. There is no guarantee that what works today will work tomorrow. Skills and practices can quickly become obsolete due to new and better processes. Career certifications are a great way to develop current skills that are in high demand. Laura Handrick, a careers and workplace analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, shares that certifications can boost the desirability of college students:
“Summer is the perfect time for students to further their education or pursue certifications that will pay off later on in their careers. There are a multitude of low-cost educational websites that offer online courses year-round. No matter what industry a student aspires to work in, it’s critical that he or she sets themselves apart. In some industries, certifications almost guarantee employment right out of college.”
For most colleges and universities, prime job and internship recruiting occurs in the fall. Top companies in every industry know they need to act fast to secure the best talent for summer internships. The issue with fall recruiting however, is the difficulty that unprepared candidates face to improve their desirability in the short time period that companies are accepting applications. Students can prepare for recruiting season by obtaining a career certification in the summer to increase their job offer rates in the fall.
Decide what career to pursue before investing a lot of money in college
One final benefit to pursuing a career certification in the summer is that it can help solidify a student’s decision about what to study. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 30 percent of college students change their major at least once. These changes in major can be costly and may be one factor that explains why 60 percent of students take longer than four years to graduate college. Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and founder of Good Financial Cents, states how a certification can help students make decisions about what major to pursue:
“First, if this is the career that the student, in fact, decides to pursue after graduation, then beginning the work on the certification will give them more knowledge and experience before they have joined the workforce. This could prove helpful during the interview process, giving them an edge on other applicants. [Career certifications] could also help the student realize this isn't a career they want to pursue and prevent them from more schooling or getting a job in a field that leaves them feeling unfulfilled.”
It is not uncommon for students to be so focused on completing school, that when they finally do finish, they realize how much they dislike their job. A small time and money investment in a career certification can go a long way to prevent future regret.
It is easy to read about the benefits of a career certification. But does it actually work? Beck Beach, a user experience designer and blogger who has been featured in Forbes and Business Insider, describes her experience pursuing a career certification:
“During the summer, I got certified in UX from a university in a nearby city. The benefits of being certified are that I stand out from the competition, sharpened my skills, and have new network connections. It took me six months to get my certification in UX and now have no trouble finding work.
I met several people in the certification program that I was able to add to my network. It was an in-person certification so that made it easier. I have taken other certifications in the past that were online, and I was still able to get people added to my LinkedIn network. I currently have over 8,000 people in my network. The reason it is easier for me to find work is because I am certified in UX design. Most people in UX design do not have any kind of certification. Having a certification helps me stand out from the crowd. Every day, I get 10 or more recruiters calling me and several emails.
The summer is a great time to get certified because there were fewer students in the class and the hours were more flexible. I had university professors who were off for the summer teaching me valuable UX design skills. It was a wonderful experience that enhanced my professional career!”
Give it a shot
Career certifications are a great summer option due to the flexible schedules, lower demand, new skill development, testament of personal dedication, increased job security, and aid in cementing college decisions. Do your research on companies and available offerings in areas that interest you. Some institutions offer a money-back commitment. If you try the course out for a few days and decide it is not for you, you can receive a refund. Andy Cooke, Head of Online at Good e-Learning states:
"The idea behind training is to not only gain a qualification but also come away with actionable knowledge. Students should always take the time to make sure a course is both accredited and well-received before making a purchase. Think of your summer training as a calculated investment, and you won’t be disappointed with the results."
If you are debating whether to pursue a career certification, give it a shot. You don’t have to cancel your summer plans, but rather, have something to do during your free hours. If you are in college, the certification will only make you more desirable. If you are a working professional, a certification will give you more marketable skills that will impress your employer. At the end of the summer, you can scroll through your Hawaii photos while sitting in your new office after the big promotion.