6 Simple Professional Development Ideas for Summer Break

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

Summer break is a time to rest, unwind, and spend quality time catching up with family and friends. When we’re so used to being busy from dusk to dawn, though, suddenly having excess time on our hands can make us feel restless or even bored. If you are feeling that itch to be productive but aren’t sure what to work on, consider doing some individual skill building or professional development on the side of your rest and self-care. Read on for some ideas on where to begin!

A person types lines of code into a laptop computer.

Free Online Courses

EdX is Harvard University’s platform for online community courses. Individuals can audit classes for free or pay a small fee to receive a certificate documenting completion of the class (fees vary by course but range from $50-$300). Offerings range across all disciplines and include titles such as “Introduction to Data Science with Python,” “The Architectural Imagination,” and “Food Fermentation: The Science of Cooking with Microbes.” For a higher commitment level and price, EdX also offers professional certificate programs such as “Computer Science for Python Programming” and “Big Data for Social Good.” Programming skills such as Python and R have wide utility across fields and can be a big boost for your overall hireability; EdX offers a way to dip your toe in and start building skills without a big financial commitment! Other similar platforms include Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, which is offered for free to all currently enrolled students!

Preparing Future Faculty Reading Group 

UC Graduate College’s Preparing Future Faculty Program is a great resource for those who are interested in entering academia after UC. It is a participatory professional development program, where students can engage as much or as little as they would like, from a single event to a combination of reading groups, workshops, coursework, and mentoring that will earn them a title of “fellow” or “graduate” (more on PFF here!). Over the summer, PFF will be operating virtual (synchronous and asynchronous) reading groups to discuss inclusion and diversity in higher education through What Inclusive Instructors Do. This book will be provided to students participating in any of the reading groups over the summer! Interested students can register here if they are interested in attending any of the reading groups. 

Work on Language Learning  

Learning a second language offers a host of benefits, from expanded professional opportunities, cognitive and intellectual stimulation, improved cultural understanding, enhanced travel experiences, and even strengthened problem-solving skills. Fortunately, in our modern world it’s never been easier to hone your language skills; free apps such as Duolingo and Memrise gamify language learning and provide encouragement to sustain the habit over time. HelloTalk and Tandem are language exchange apps that allow users to further build their language skills through connecting to native speakers and holding practice conversations. 

Create a Blog/Online Portfolio 

Starting a blog can be a valuable endeavor for graduate students looking to showcase their expertise, engage with a broader audience, and establish themselves as thought leaders in their field. Platforms like WordPress and Blogger allow students to customize design and layout to fit with your personal brand. On your site, you can showcase publications and research articles, link your resume, and post your thoughts on various hot topics in your field. Check out this article from the London School of Economics to learn more about the value of blogging as an academic and how to get started. 

Join a Networking Group 

Networking can have a host of benefits, from opening potential professional doors to learning more about your industry to even fostering friendships (to learn more about networking, check out this past GradCurrents article on the subject!). Many groups exist in Cincinnati to engage in networking, both industry-specific and more general. For those in marketing and communications, AMA Cincinnati offers monthly coffee and conversation events. is also a great resource for connecting with networking groups both locally and online. 

Workshop: Preparing to Teach Online 

If you are interested in teaching or perhaps are already a TA, building your academic facilitation skills can be an extremely valuable pursuit. Offered by UC Clermont’s Center for Teaching and Learning, this self-paced online course is spread over two months, providing faculty members with the flexibility to enhance their online teaching skills. Learn effective strategies for course design, alignment, learner engagement, and more, while dedicating approximately 8 hours to complete the course at your own pace. Sign up on CampusLink.