Many students focus on securing a summer internship as the spring semester wraps up. However, not all students lock in an opportunity, and are then left to spend their summer months doing something else.
Fortunately, these students, and even ones that prefer to spend their time away from internships, have a variety of options to make the most of their time, and even be more productive and successful than those that intern for 40 or so hours each week.
Career centers should aim to professionally develop and positively impact students, and not solely find them jobs. If you have students disappointed in their summer internship efforts, or lack thereof, here are 12 things to recommend they do in order to have a summer filled with productivity, networking, learning, and much more.
1. Take online courses
There are digital classes and programs for just about any area of focus. Students can take online courses for hard skills such as coding, data analysis, and accounting, or soft skills like copywriting, social media marketing, and music. This list of Top Online Learning Sites breaks down 50 of the best sites by category, which students can use as a springboard to sign up for any class they discover and desire.
2. Create a blog
Blogging is an opportunity to write about anything, as well as an excuse to contact and interview professionals for Q&A posts. Students can use really simple blogging tools such as Medium or LinkedIn Pulse (you can tell students that the “Publish a post” button is located towards the top of their LinkedIn homepage feed) to start writing. Creating a new blog allows students to be productive throughout the summer, and have actual writing samples to present during future job interviews.
3. Conduct informational interviews
If a student puts the time and energy into contacting professionals, informational interviews are incredibly valuable experiences. Students not only make a new connection with individuals they admire, but they also create a new connection with someone at a company they could see themselves working for down the road.
Some of the best ways for students to secure informational interviews include referrals from friends, family members, and professors. Another great way is reaching out to professionals on Twitter or LinkedIn requesting a 30-minute coffee meeting or phone call to pick their brain and get advice. Alumni associations through the university is another fantastic way to connect current students with current professionals in the real, working world.
Traveling exposes students to new locations, cultures, people, businesses, challenges, and even new ways of thinking. If a student is eager to see more of the world, encourage him or her to travel either domestically or abroad, especially because it becomes increasingly difficult for someone to travel once he or she works full-time.
There are several group travel companies that cater directly to students and young professionals. Some of these companies are Intrepid Travel, Explorica, Contiki, EF College Break, and Under30Experiences. Group travel companies bring young people together for a unique trip of exploring and connecting. It’s a great way for students to make friends or even new business connections while experiencing a new part of the globe.
Volunteering might have a specific and negative connotation to students, but in reality, it’s a completely new world of opportunities, learning, and résumé-building potential. Websites such as VolunteerMatch, Create The Good, All For Good, HandsOn Network, and Network for Good make it easy for students to find volunteer opportunities in particular fields and locations.
Opportunities on these sites range from administrative work and project management with nonprofits, to the traditional activities that give back to the community. Help your students identify their career goals and passions, and think about which types of volunteer gigs would accomplish those goals. Plus, volunteer experience is an important part of a student’s résumé.
6. Start a podcast
The reasons for starting a podcast are similar to those of a blog, but instead, it’s ideal for students that prefer to use their voice and even learn about audio and sound editing, rather than writing and adding traditional content to their portfolio.
Podcasts are becoming more and more popular today, and they’re the perfect summer project for students interested in careers in broadcasting or radio. Hosting a podcast also allows students to interview individuals they admire and want to connect with in-person.
7. Enroll in summer courses
Just because students have a few months off from courses, doesn’t mean they’re forced to do something different or press the pause button on earning credits towards their degree. Some students prefer to get ahead and graduate early, and summer courses are great for receiving the necessary credits to graduate. Courses at the student’s university are ideal, but if they rather enroll at a different school, make sure they know the rules and any relevant limitations about transferring credits over.
8. Become a brand ambassador
Companies throughout the U.S. constantly seek individuals, specifically students, to represent their brand or product to the public at events and popular areas in your city. Most of the time, brand ambassadors interact with people, hand out free items, or hold promotional signage. These part-time gigs are typically straightforward, quick, and fun ways to make some money.
A perk of becoming a brand ambassador is the chance to meet executives of the brand or marketing agency that runs the event or promotion. If students can stand out, work hard, and make an effort to introduce themselves to the rest of the team, it may lead to bigger and better opportunities in the future. Encourage students to search for “brand ambassador” on Craigslist in their area, or check out websites such as Across the Nation, My Street Team,Attack Marketing, Fusion Event Staffing, and Bigger Markets for brand ambassador opportunities.
9. Attend networking events
Local networking events allow students to meet professionals and develop their networking skills in a real, professional setting. Executives often attend networking events to find new potential employees, and students should proactively mention they are seeking an internship or full-time job. Searching on Google for “networking events in New York” (obviously, they should use their own city) or using Meetup.com to find groups and events is the best place to start. Also, our “7 Ways Students Can Make the Most of Attending Networking Events” article explains the benefits of networking events in greater detail.
10. Get a part-time job
Whether it’s working at a restaurant, a retail store, babysitting, or working the reception desk at a local business, part-time jobs may not provide the exact type of experience that an internship fulfills, but it pays hourly and builds students’ résumés. On top of that, students will learn new ways of solving problems and working with others, which impacts their set of skills and diversity of experiences, both things worth discussing during an interview!
11. Research with professors
Students with niche areas of expertise may be a great fit for conducting research on behalf of a professor, either at his or her university, or one near the student’s hometown. The reason why students with a specific area of expertise are better fit for research is because professors are very careful when choosing students to work with.
On many occasions, professors end up spending more time answering questions or making corrections to research if a student lacks experience or passion. However, students that developed a strong rapport with a particular professor during the semester might be the perfect fit. If a student is highly interested in the subject, they should email the professor to ask if he or she is looking for extra help with research or side projects they’re a part of.
12. Pitch your own job or project
Students that are more entrepreneurial in nature can contact organizations of interest and essentially “pitch” a job or project for the business. Some examples include managing a company’s social media channels, gathering data for them, conducting industry research, writing blog posts, and helping with administrative tasks.
The goal for students pitching their own jobs and projects is to identify tasks that will not be time consuming for employees at the company. Responsibilities that serve as an added bonus or deeper level of something the company already does will make it easier for the organization to agree to the student’s idea. If the idea is accepted, either for pay or not, this allows students a significant amount of autonomy and responsibility established from the ground-up.
For students without summer internship plans, any of the above 12 ideas are excellent ways to build their résumé, gain experience, meet interesting people, and learn new skills. Ultimately, students must take a “what you put in, is what you get out” approach in order to take advantage of their summer months off, and just because a student is not interning, that doesn’t mean the entire summer should be spent watching Netflix and putting their career plans on hold. Instead, it’s time to roll up their sleeves and create their own experiences!