As college students, many of us are constantly bombarded with how important it is to get an internship. Summer internships are a great opportunity to gain experience in your field and to make connections, but it is not always easy to find one.
Depending on your geographical location, the timeframe you are available, or any other conflicting factor, it is possible that there are no internships that are a good fit for this summer. If this is you, don’t freak out! Before you start blabbering about how this is going to ruin your whole career path and you will never be successful after this, you need to know this it is not the end of the world to not get an internship. There are plenty of other things you can do this summer to continue professional development outside of an internship.
1. Informational interviews
Informational interviews are a huge untapped resource by many aspiring professionals. An informational interview is basically meeting with someone who works at a company you would like to work at or in a field that you hope to break into someday and asking them about their experience. This may sound intimidating, but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard professionals say, “I will meet for coffee with anyone.” People want to help young people develop their own career path. They have all been in your shoes and understand how valuable their insight can be.
Not only does this give you valuable insight into what it could be like to work in that field someday, it also gives you an opportunity to network and connect with that person. Making a positive impression on people already in your field could help them keep you in mind if a position opens up in their company or somewhere they know. This does not mean you are looking for them to give you a job, but they put job openings on your radar that you would not have known about had they not told you.
2. Job shadow
This has many the same benefits as informational interviews, but you have an extended amount of time with these people and you get to see them in their place of work and see first-hand work that you could potentially be doing. Knowing everything they do and work with on a daily basis can help you hone your skills to help you succeed in a similar position.
This gives you a chance to see other people they interact with the company, and potentially connect with them as well. It is not about the grades you make, but the hands you shake and it can never hurt to connect with more people and you could potentially set up other informational interviews through this experience.
3. Take classes
Want to get ahead or boost your GPA? Maybe taking classes this summer would be a good fit for you. An early graduation date could help showcase your drive to a future employer and that you are and that you are dedicated to your education. You can use this time to diversify your knowledge in a way that could give you an edge in your future classes or job.
Are you a communication major? Maybe consider taking a psychology course on human motivation or behavior. Education major? Maybe take a course on comparative ethnic studies or the psychology of gender to help you better connect with students that are different from you. Engineering major? Take a communication course to help you better communicate your work and facilitate a more efficient working environment. All these things can only contribute to the skill set you are developing, so why not?
4. Work a wage job
I was told by my marketing professor that every job is just a process. You are either a part of, creating or supervising a process in any job you do. Getting more experience with different type of processes is a huge advantage for anyone looking to give themselves a competitive edge. Work that fast food job, because no one has better processes than them! They are fast, efficient, consistent, and have an incredible way of orchestrating the process to fulfill the needs of a drive-through and a restaurant in the fast time frame customers expect.
Collect metrics while you’re there and show how you improved or contributed to that process. Adding numbers a concrete statistics to each position you have held will make your resume a lot stronger and give future employers how this experience helped you become a stronger candidate for a potential position.
Giving back is always a good thing to do. Not only can you feel good about the work you are doing, but this has the same advantage of work a wage job. It is a process that you are getting experience with. Even better if you can find somewhere that you can do something related to your field. If you are studying environmental science, work with environmental restoration. If you are communication or marketing, offer to help a younger organization get their social media or website off the ground and get more engagement from the community.
At the end of the day, career paths are not linear. You can make any opportunity work for you as long as you know what angle to take.