In this super competitive world, we know how important it is to get an internship (or two, or three) before graduation. Internships can help you get real-life experience in your field of choice, and when it’s time to look for a job after college, they’ll give you an edge over less experienced candidates.
When you’re interviewing for jobs after college, employers will surely be impressed if you completed an internship in a fancy company, but what they’re looking for is, more than whether you interned or not, is for the valuable skills you picked up during your time in college. And an internship is not the only way to get experience and make connections. So, if you didn’t hear back from any companies or you just can’t intern this summer, don’t worry. Internships are not the only way to build your resume. Here are some alternatives to summer internships.
My mom says that what you learn traveling in a month is equivalent to what you learn in college in a year. Of course, unless you’re studying abroad you won’t pick up on a lot of book knowledge, but you will expand your world view in a dramatic way. That is always a good thing, and something that employers find valuable.
Traveling can mean many different things, from mission trips, visiting family, backpacking, to just taking time off to see the world. Many travel websites cater specifically to college students, like EF College Break, Student Universe, and STA Travel. If you are interested in something a little bit different, volunteering abroad allows you to explore the world while making a difference in other people’s lives. Besides, you will visit places you might not in a regular trip, and you will be immersed in the culture of the place. Check out International Student Volunteers and Operation Groundswell.
However, you don’t have to leave the country to make a difference. Volunteering looks great on your resume, so find something you’re passionate about and start looking for organizations you admire. If you are involved with any community service organizations in your school, ask them about volunteer opportunities for the summer. Many organizations, like AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity have opportunities available as well.
With a little research, you’ll find there are tons of programs out there, whether you want to stay close to home or not. There’s something for everyone out there. If you’re interested in animal conservation, you may want to volunteer in a wolf sanctuary. Or, if you are interested in assisting communities that have suffered because of a natural disaster, the United Saints Recovery Project may be right for you.
Especially if you are majoring in chemistry, biology, engineering, or any science-related major, this is a great option for you. Whether you choose to stay on campus working alongside a professor as a research assistant, or choose to explore other options such as Research Experience for Undergraduates, you will be learning more about your field of study and picking up invaluable skills and experience. If you are interested in the research a particular professor is conducting, it never hurts to email them and inquire about summer positions.
Many schools offer summer research programs and encourage students from all over the US to apply. Another option is applying to programs such as Pathways to Science and REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates, which is actually many different programs organized by the National Science Foundation, and you can read more about that here).
4. Stay on Campus
Staying on campus working on something you’re passionate is also a great idea. If you’re an orientation leader, an academic tutor, or if you’re helping out with any programs for upcoming freshmen, you will be learning a lot too and adding to your skill set. You will also be networking and making connections that will be valuable later on. There are less people on campus during the summer, but that doesn’t mean activities in your college stop completely.
You can also take one or two summer courses to get ahead on your degree or lighten up your course load for the upcoming semester. If you’re struggling with a particular class, you can take it during the summer so you can focus completely on the subject.
5. Build your Brand
If you’ve been thinking about building your own personal website, taking your LinkedIn profile to the next level, or updating your resume, but just haven’t made the time to do it, now’s your chance. While you’re at it, you should also make sure there’s nothing you wouldn’t want an employer to see on any of your social media accounts.
These days, how employers perceive you online is almost (if not equally) as important as how they would perceive you in real life. Evaluate your career aspirations and make sure you are projecting the right image to future employers.
6. Learn a new skill
Whether it’s coding, working on your writing skills, or learning how to use Photoshop, there must be something relevant to your intended career that you’ve been interested in learning but haven’t found the time yet. There are many options out there, whether it is an online class or taking a class in your local community college. Websites like Coursera and EdX offer classes in virtually anything you can find in a college campus, like programming and economics.
Some other invaluable skills that will look great on a resume: web development, public speaking, statistics, negotiating, and technical writing. The options are endless (and so are all the cool things you can do this summer!) Best of luck, prospies.