12 tips for using the 12 days of Christmas wisely

Our step-by-step guide to boosting your career prospects over the Christmas holiday

There are 12 days of Christmas, but a university holiday gives you a few more than that...

So here's our 12-step guide to using them wisely to boost your career prospects.

1. Apply for internships

If you're interested in a career in the City, insight weeks and internships are an important step on the graduate recruitment ladder.

Antonia Choi, Head of IBD Graduate Recruitment at Nomura, explains: "Internships are our preferred method of recruiting, because they're essentially like a ten-week interview where we can spend time getting to know someone, and vice versa."

By the time you break up for Christmas, some of the deadlines will have already passed. But it isn't too late! There are still plenty of opportunities and, with the term's essays and exams out of the way, it's the perfect time to spend a few days working on your applications.

The deadlines for most spring weeks are in early January, but if you're interested in investment banking, watch out for J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, whose deadlines are in early December.

For summer internships in finance, consultancy and law, the deadlines are fast approaching: see our jobs section for a full list of opportunities, deadlines and details on how to apply.

2. Get some work experience

The holidays are a good time to boost your CV with practical work experience.

Even if you haven't arranged a formal placement, by taking on a part-time job you can develop your skills - and earn some extra cash to fund your Christmas shopping.

"No experience is worth disregarding," says Antonia. "For example, working in restaurants or bars could reflect client service and communication skills."

And, despite the economic downturn, the hospitality and retail industries are still hiring Christmas temps to lend an extra hand over the festive season, so send out your CV pronto!

If you're keen to gain some career-specific experience try contacting relevant businesses in your local area that may be able to offer you a short-term placement or work-shadowing day.

Showing that you've taken the initiative to gain skills and experience in the industry you'd like to work in can help when you apply for internships and graduate roles.

Richard Irwin, Head of Student Recruitment at PwC says: "An outstanding candidate is someone who doesn't just grasp an opportunity when it comes along, but who goes out and creates opportunities for themselves."

3. Update your CV

The past term may have flown by faster than a French hen(!), but if you've been involved in clubs and societies, taken on new responsibilities, had a part-time job or discovered a new hobby, you'll have gained experiences and learnt new skills.

Take a moment to think about your achievements and update your CV with relevant activities. Ask yourself: What have I done? What did I learn? How can I communicate it to potential employers?

Richard says: "We're looking for candidates who have a high degree of self-awareness and understand their own strengths, weaknesses and development needs."

4. Set yourself goals

Taking time to reflect on what you've achieved over the past few months can also help you to identify any gaps on your CV, and think about what you can do next term to fill them.

Most employers look for key skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication, attention to detail, and organisation. Head of EMEA Graduate Recruitment at UBS, Lyle Andrews, says that if you've been involved in lots of societies, but haven't risen to a position of merit in any of them, it can look unfocused.

"Showing that you can make a decision about something that interests you, set a course of action, and achieve it - that's what sets your application apart," he says.

5. Boost your commercial awareness?

University life can often feel like living in a bubble. If you've been confined to the library and snowed under with deadlines over the past few months, you might've missed the details of some global developments.

Being able to "confidently and intelligently discuss what's happening around you commercially" is essential in an interview, says Antonia.

6. Do your research

Whether you're just starting to think about your career, preparing your applications for internships, or hunting for a graduate job, researching companies, roles and application processes is the way to success.

Lyle says: "The best thing you can do is to know what you're getting yourself into by knowing what the work is like, and knowing what the pluses and minuses are."

But, finding out all you need to know can be a workload equivalent to an extra course during term time. So, use some of your holiday to read up on opportunities that interest you, think of any questions you need to ask, and prepare applications.

7. Curl up with a book

Picking up a book might be the last thing you want to do over the holidays, but reading outside your prescribed course materials is a great way to relax, learn something new, and discover different perspectives.

8. Network

You might be lucky enough to bump into the chief executive of a top City bank over champagne and canapés at your next-door neighbour's annual Christmas Eve party. If you do, now's the time to network.

If you don't, take your mum's advice and send out "thank you" notes, or rather, networking emails, to anyone interesting you met over the course of the term. It can feel awkward, but if you've collected a stack of business cards from careers fairs and company presentations, spend a few hours sending out tailored emails to each person thanking them for any advice they've given, asking thoughtful questions you might have, and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

9. Volunteer

'Tis the season of giving, and giving your time to support a worthwhile cause is a rewarding way to spend the holidays.

Whether you're visiting patients in hospital, singing in a choir, serving food to the homeless or sorting donations at your local charity shop, through volunteering you'll also gain skills that you can apply to your career, and maybe some important life experiences.

Chris Williams, from Graduate Marketing at RBS, says that in addition to academic achievements, recruiters look for "personality, communication and overall employability skills. Any commitment shown to volunteering or fundraising activities is a good way to demonstrate those abilities."

10. Clean up

We're not just talking about clearing your flat of beer bottles and pizza boxes before you head home for the holidays. If you've worked hard and played hard this term, and have the photos to prove it, make sure your virtual CV (AKA your Facebook page) has been cleaned before you start applying for jobs.

Employers are increasingly searching applicants' online profiles to find out more about them, and if you don't want a dodgy freshers' week photo to stand in the way of your dream job, anything questionable is best removed.

11. Hit the sales

Getting up at 5am on Boxing Day to make your way into town and join the queues of bargain hunters waiting for the shops to open their doors may not be one of your favoured Christmas traditions.

But make the most of the seasonal sales and treat yourself to a stylish new suit and shoes. You'll save money, banish pre-interview clothing crises, and be ready to put your best foot forward come spring week and summer internship time.

12. Relax!

Don't forget that the Christmas holidays are for relaxing, catching up with friends and family, eating too much, and enjoying yourself!

In between developing your skills and brushing up your CV, take some time to sip on some mulled wine, munch on a mince pie, and recharge your batteries for the new year ahead.