Didn’t Get That Internship? Here Are 5 Career-Boosting Alternatives

The overall internship process is a struggle, and you deserve a break. You have to apply like crazy to positions you might not even get, come to terms with being broke AF while working your butt off and also somehow find the time to focus on your studies. Overwhelmed? Same. That’s why we have a few career-building suggestions you can do on your own time without the stress of intern life.

1. Blog

You’re already sitting at your computer all day watching Netflix, so why not fit in some productivity? Blogging is cheap, fast and necessary for any person trying to market themselves to future employers. You get to have a website all to yourself to humblebrag about your accomplishments and lowkey pretend like thousands of readers are invested in your daily life. Girl, get on this!

Hayley Brandt, a junior at James Madison University, is a fashion blogger and has found blogging to be necessary for establishing her personal brand and connecting with other women who share her passion. “My blog is handy because I can send interested employers to it, and they’ll see a polished, fashionista version of myself I want to sell them,” she says. “I can also network with women who have my same minimalist fashion, style and career interests, and one day we might help each other get hired!”

Whether you’re a numbers whiz whipping up your own math theory, an aspiring writer or future POTUS, your blog is a tangible way for people to get familiar with you and your skills. Plus, whatever you blog about will be practice for the real thing one day! Make sure to check out platforms like WordPress and Squarespace for your first blogging experience. This creative outlet is definitely a collegiette-approved way to build your career.

Related: Which City You Should Work In, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

2. Certificate programs

Maybe your major isn’t cutting it, or you can’t stand sitting in your gen ed lecture any longer. If you’re looking for a new area of study, we recommend completing an online certificate program to add supplementary knowledge towards your professional interests and put that extra cherry on top of your resume. Even if you’re so over classes and homework, a certificate program involves short-term study for all the rewards.

Tammy Martin is a career counselor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and while she specializes in helping engineering students find their paths after college, she works with Cal Poly students from all majors. Dr. Martin thinks that any student pursuing a multifaceted career should pursue an extra certificate. “Many students are surprised to hear about the option of certificate programs, but I recommend one at least once a day,” she says. “I just had an architectural engineering student come in who was worried about his success in areas of design and art, so I pointed him to online programs that would be more marketable on his resume than an internship would be when he enters the workforce.”

Sarah Ahern, a junior at UCLA, has tried this approach and loves how helpful her certificate is. “I got a feature film writing certificate from UCLA because I want to be a playwright but I thought this would help me too,” she says. “Now if I ever want to write film scripts or need to for my job I’m totally equipped to do it, and I feel like it makes me more desirable to hire since I can do both.”

From massage therapy to medical transcription to court reporting, any hiring manager would be so impressed to see that you took the time to put this extra skill under your belt. Also, can’t we agree this sort of training is way more rewarding because of how specifically targeted it is? A certificate or two will do wonders to build your career. Don’t wait any longer!

3. Network

It’s true that you have the power to make your dreams happen, but having help from others doesn’t hurt either! Networking with professionals and peers that share your career interest will help teach you what steps you need to take to get your dream job, give you a foot in the door to more opportunities and guarantee you a few friends in the business. Some of the people you network with may be your key to an internship or employment opportunity, so take advantage of communication.

Lucy Campbell is a junior at Aberdeen University and has seen the benefits of networking. “After my first internship I stayed in touch with everyone I met through LinkedIn, and then the summer after one my co-interns I worked with got hired at a law firm and helped me do a summer program there by giving me a recommendation,” she says. “During the program, I networked like crazy and tried to meet everyone, and since then I’ve kept in touch so maybe someone will hire me later.”

To network, start by reaching out to all the professionals you know so far. Check in and see how their lives are, then ask if they know of any open opportunities. Even if they say no, still ask to conduct an informational interview with them. For every new experience, try to make a genuine connection with people and a lasting professional relationship. Not only will these new friends help you build your career, but they'll also keep you feeling supported.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Virtual Networking

4. Volunteer

If you’ve failed at getting an internship and Googled “internship alternatives” (we know you have), you’ve probably found that one of the top recommendations is to spend your time volunteering instead, just to something to put on your resume. However, just because you didn’t get that internship shouldn’t make a volunteer opportunity into settling. In fact, volunteering is a gratifying way to pursue your passion while also giving back in a meaningful way. Plus, you get to put it on a resume so it’s a win all around.

Morgan Mazzocco, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has found that volunteering is invaluable. “I want to go to grad school for museum studies, but in the meantime, I’m volunteering at local museums to get experience,” she says. “I think people get turned off by the idea of working for free, but in a way volunteering is just like doing an unpaid internship. Through volunteering, I’ve learned how to handle art and set up exhibits, which gives me so much prior experience to what I’ll do in grad school.”

Dr. Martin agrees that volunteering is something you should actively pursue. “Oftentimes volunteering will give you hands-on experience that an internship won’t. You should put multiple volunteer activities on your resume by the time you graduate.”

The most important thing is to volunteer somewhere that matches your professional interest. The work can help you learn a specific skill or fill in gaps in your knowledge. This supplementary learning may be even more valuable than an internship would have been, so definitely seek out volunteer opportunities. You’ll be thanking us later!

5. Start your own project

If an internship isn’t in your future, then take matters into your own hands and start a personal passion project. If you’re an artist, then illustrate your own graphic novel. If you’re a physics buff, then compile some independent research. Whether you travel, design or invent, take that time you would have spent interning to create tangible work you can show off. It’s personally fulfilling, and if your project is successful then definitely seek out getting your work published or bought. Even better, university departments will often pay for your independent project, so talk with your department head to see what options are available. Let’s be real, we’d take pretty much any cool opportunity that comes our way, especially if we don’t have to pay for it.

Don’t get stuck thinking that an internship is the only way to advance your future. From marketing yourself on social media to asking your professor for a reference, there are small things you can do every day to set yourself up for unprecedented success. When you are ready for an internship, make sure to check out our job and internship board for the best opportunities. We can’t wait to see how you do!

Gina is the Associate Editor of Her Campus. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2017, where she studied English and Theater. As an undergrad with Her Campus, Gina was a national contributing writer, first ever national viral editor, editorial intern, and editor-in-chief of her chapter at Cal Poly. In her spare time, Gina enjoys cuddling her friends and family, petting other peoples' dogs, and eating donuts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ginasescandon.

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