By Jong Eun Jung
Many college students search for internships during the school year to spend their summer developing their professional career and maybe earn some money. However, it’s not the end of the world if you didn’t secure an internship for the summer. Here are six other ways you can use your break to gain professional experience to put on your résumé when applying for next summer’s internships:
A summer immersion is a great program to develop valuable industry skills and knowledge in a short period of time. For example, Vanderbilt AcceleratorⓇ Summer Business Immersion is a 4-week long program where students and recent graduates work in teams to complete a consulting project for a company each week. Many students also leverage the experience and the networks they gain in the program to secure an internship for the following summer. “It assumes the role of a summer internship — it essentially is like four summer internships packed into a month. And I think it’s beneficial in a way that you’re really working on intensive (projects) with peers, getting feedback, (and) really developing your professional skills that you can then apply in an internship,” said Michelle Desh (Vanderbilt ’20), a former Accelerator participant.
Just because you’re not interning doesn’t mean that you can’t earn money. Taking on a summer job will help you earn spending money for the next school year and develop professional skills. For example, by being a camp counselor, you can develop leadership and communication skills. In addition, they give you stories to talk about in future job interviews. “I think the best thing college students can do is create more stories. I see so many students say, this happened, and I learned that (so) when I face this again, this is how I react and respond to it,” said Greg Harvey, the Director of Accelerator. Look for listings online or ask your networks for any opportunities for college students.
Volunteering is not only beneficial for the soul and your community, but it also helps you develop vital skills in the workplace in areas such as leadership and communications. Search for organizations that plan out service trips or create one yourself for a cause you’re passionate about. It can also be an opportunity to travel and explore different cultures, especially if you choose a service trip that has a destination outside the country.
Since there are no classes or homework over the summer, it’s the perfect time to prepare yourself for your professional career. Research different companies and jobs to see what kind of career is right for you. Through LinkedIn or your school’s alumni website, connect with alumni who are working in the fields or industries you’re interested in. Shoot them an email to schedule informational interviews and get an insider’s view of that field. “I really encourage students to network with alumni and look for companies or types of businesses that they’re pursuing, and set up informational interviews and coffee chats,” Harvey said. “I think that’s a really good way to get some insight into… the type of work students can be doing at an entry level.”
You can still gain professional experience without an official internship or job. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, start your own small business by selling goods or freelancing in areas such as photography. You can also take on other side projects such as creating a personal website or conducting research on a company you’re interested in. Projects like the website will add to your portfolio and showcase your skills, which will likely impress the interviewer at the next internship you apply for.
Technical skills such as coding and Excel make your résumé stand out, and summer is a good time for you to take online courses and even earn an official certificate. Seek out websites such as edX that offer free courses on a diverse range of topics from data analysis to communication. These courses and certificates will show future employers your dedication toward developing yourself as a professional and help you learn skills that may be necessary for roles in technical fields such as finance. “Learning a new skill — whether it’s PowerPoint or Excel or something you don’t have time (for) during the school year (or that) you can’t take as an elective — I think that’s a feather in a student’s cap,” Harvey said.