5 summer projects to help you stand out

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Summer is coming-and there's no better way to use your free time than making yourself more employable.

A lovely, hot summer is on its way, with the European Championships, the Olympics and BBQs to look forward to. No matter what stage of your degree you're at, there's plenty you can do now to give yourself an edge in your job hunt.

The key to any graduate job application is standing out from the crowd, which means extra skills and experience are an important part of your arsenal. Summer is the perfect opportunity to skill-up in areas you might be lacking and add interesting and creative assets to your CV.

Here's 5 (mostly) unique projects to put you ahead of the pack.

1. Master a programme

In many graduate trainee roles you will be expected to do both general and ad hoc business duties, such as marketing tasks and event planning, or taking on data administration. It is vitally important you have a basic understanding of the Microsoft three amigos (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)-and why not add a few more in to sweeten the deal?

A good grasp of some of the more creative and complex programmes (such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign) will go a long way towards giving you an edge. If you don't have access to those programmes, there are similar programmes like GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which are free and provide you similar functionality. After a few YouTube tutorials, you will be able to say you have basic competence with these advanced programmes.

2. Learn a Language

It's a smaller world than ever, with more companies operating internationally than ever before. While English is often the default business language, having another language under your belt can really impress employers.

Graduates with English and another foreign language are a real asset-and once again, technology can aid you in your self-improving pursuits. We recommend the free app Duolingo, which gets you started on a range of languages from Spanish and Portuguese, to Danish and Russian.

You can always test your fluency on your summer holiday-we hear St. Petersburg is lovely this time of year.

View our graduate Language jobs.

3. Volunteer

Summer is a time for giving back. Employers love graduates who use their free time to help others-and as an added bonus, most volunteer work will provide you with a range of additional workplace skills. Look for summer volunteering schemes such as summer camps or charity fundraising drives. Some volunteering positions may even give you the opportunity to travel.

Take a look at our Volunteering opportunities.

Volunteering is an especially excellent option for graduates looking to work in the Education or Charity sectors, as it shows employers you are passionate and committed.

4. Get technical

We all know how influential technology is to modern business, and getting a better grip on the tech world can really help you stand out. You don't need to be a coding wizard or an expert website builder, but if you can show you are more IT adept than the average graduate you'll increase your value to potential employers.

There is a wide range of YouTube tutorials out there which can provide you with an overview of the basics such as website building and software development. Try building your own website or blog to give you experience with online tools like WordPress or Google Analytics and AdWords-and give you something to show for your time as evidence of your skills.

5. Be an Intern

Internships and Summer Placements are the best way to spend your summer, as they will bolster your CV and workplace skills-but you probably already know that.

Another major benefit of internships and summer programmes is that they give you the opportunity to try out something you think you might like to do and see if it's for you without a long-term commitment. Spending a few weeks gaining experience in one industry can also show you career opportunities you might never have considered-and it's not a huge waste of time if you discover the job isn't right for you after all.

See what Internships, Work Placements and Summer Opportunities are open.

Don't waste your summer break-remember that preparing for graduate job hunting involves more than filling in mind-numbing application forms! Bolster your CV by gaining some innovative experience and skills this summer and you'll be set to stand out.