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No Summer Plans Yet? Here’s What To Do

Back in high school, getting a summer job was often as simple as filling out a few applications and getting your cousin to put in a good word for you at the Juice Shop. Unfortunately, those days are over. With a weak job market and increasingly tough competition for coveted internships, landing summer employment can be a stressful process, to say the least. “The most agonizing part is waiting,” says Madeline, a junior at Emerson College. “Sometimes I don’t think internship coordinators understand that people like me check our emails every 10 seconds to see if we’re accepted or not.”

So if you haven’t found a summer job or internship yet and you’re starting to stress, you’re not alone. More importantly: don’t give up yet. “May is not too late,” says Suzanne Dagger, director of career services at Hofstra University. “There are still opportunities to be found.” Read on to find out how you can (still) snag the perfect summer gig.   

Use your campus career center

If you haven’t gotten familiar with your university’s friendly career service employees yet, now is the time. Companies know that college campuses are full of eager students with free time in the summer, so it’s often one of the first places they’ll go to help them fill a temporary position—and May isn’t too late to be looking. “Some employers do realize at a last minute that they still need summer help,” says Donna Goldfelder, director of career services at Lehigh University. “Keep checking your university or college’s job posting system because these ‘just in time’ employers will still post there.” 

Career centers can offer opportunities and resources that you can’t get once you graduate, so be sure to take advantage while you’re still a student. “Many college campuses have joined up with internships.com [a website that posts internship openings and other internship resources],” says Dagger. “You can get full access to that site through the career center.” 

Aside from your university’s job board, keep scouring other job sites (such as www.indeed.comwww.idealist.orgwww.internqueen.com,www.internships.com and www.linkup.com) for last-minute postings. While most deadlines have passed, there’s still a chance for opportunities to pop up. 

For more tips on how to effectively use your campus career center, check out this article

Network, network, network

When many summer jobs and internships have already been filled, there’s no better way to find out what’s left (and increase your chances of getting it) than by talking to everyone you know. “Networking will get you in touch with smaller companies that will not post positions, but will have needs pop up,” says Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naive Job Seeker. Of course, it’s always important to network, but reaching out is extra helpful when it’s late in the game. “Mid-May of last year, I lucked out through some networking,” says Ramsay, a senior at Smith College. “I was told of a last-minute opening in Penguin’s internship program via Facebook chat and snagged an interview while studying abroad. A week later I flew home, and six days later I was working in New York City for the summer.” 

Don’t limit your networking search to a few previous employers and family members, either. The more people you talk to, the better chance you’ll have of finding something. Everyone you know should be aware you’re looking for employment: family members, neighbors, even friends or classmates who’ve had good internships in the past. Seek out anyone you have a connection to who works in the field you’re interested in. “Reach out; don’t be shy,” says Dezell. “These people would love help if they can. Unfortunately, too many students are too prideful or afraid to ask.” This also includes reconnecting with any professors who know you personally. Not only do they have great connections, but they’ve seen you work in a classroom setting. “Faculty can really advocate for you in ways that a career center may not be able to,” says Dagger. 

And of course, there’s LinkedIn—one of the most important networking sources out there. If you don’t have a profile yet, there’s no better time than right now. Once you’ve got your profile, use the site for more than posting your resume. “Develop a profile and join any alumni or association groups as well,” says Dezell. “Start a discussion that you are seeking internship or summer work and ask for any guidance.” 

Want to know more about how to successfully network? Click here and here
Get proactive
In May, many larger companies and organizations with established internship programs have already filled all their summer slots. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a ton of positions out there—if you know where to look. “Consider small and medium-sized organizations that may not be targeted by as many applicants,” says Sharon Jones, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill.

To find these more elusive positions, you’ll probably have to expand your search methods. Online job sites are great, but if they’re your only resource, then you’re missing out on a huge percentage of available opportunities. Not all companies or organizations will post open positions online, especially when it’s nearing the beginning of the summer. “Don’t overlook the power of going directly to companies of interest to express your desire to intern with them, even if they don’t have a position posted at the time,” says Gary Miller, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill. So if you’re still looking for a position in mid-May, it’s time to brush up on your “elevator speech.” Don’t be afraid to approach companies and offer your time. “Some places may get an unexpected short term need and would much rather fill it through such channels than advertise,” says Dezell. 

Still can’t find an internship or job that you want? Don’t resign yourself to a summer of watching TV in your parents’ house or laying out by the pool. There are countless productive ways to spend a summer besides your typical job or internship. “What’s important here is that you have something to place on your resume to account for this time,” says Rick Gillis, author of The Real Secret To Finding a Job.

Here’s what you can do instead…

A steady volunteer gig during the summer can be a great addition to your resume when you couldn’t find the internship you wanted. “Volunteering sometimes could be just as good as an internship,” says Dagger. Check USA Jobs to find open volunteering positions with government agencies, or www.idealist.org for all kinds of general volunteer positions. Or, if you know where you’re going to be living during the summer, researching non-profits in the area and simply calling them might be your best bet. “Volunteer programs are always looking for people—especially the ones always in need: medical, church, schools, etc.,” says Gillis.
Once you find a great volunteer position, make sure that you pledge a significant amount of hours. Volunteering can be a great way to network and pick up some references, but you have to dedicate a serious chunk of time to make those connections. 

Create your own job

Finally, you may need to get creative. Try combining a part-time job, classes and volunteering to fill your time with useful pursuits. “Remember that a summer career-related experience does not always have to be a 40 hour a week commitment,” says Goldfelder. Informational interviews and job shadowing are two simple and extremely helpful options. “This works really well for organizations that don’t have structured internship programs,” says Salwa Muhammad, assistant director of internships and service learning at Wellesley College’s Center for Work and Service. 

If you’re still figuring out what career path you want to follow, a series of informational interviews can be a very useful way to spend your summer. “I will often challenge students who are still exploring to do one informational interview per week for the entire summer,” says Miller. If you do know what career you want to pursue, find professionals in your area and arrange to shadow them for part of the summer. Job shadowing gives deeper information than an informational interview and allows you to establish contacts. Plus, you never know when these less official positions could turn into a real internship or even a full-time job. 

Work on your image
Still have some free time? There are plenty of productive things you can do from the comfort of your room. Work on building an online presence, starting a blog, exploring social media tools, or making your social media presence more professional. Consider taking an online class to learn a new skill or computer program, or setting aside some time to perfect your LinkedIn profile. “More and more and more of the companies you want to work for begin their hiring search on LinkedIn,” says Gillis. 

The key is deciding what you’re going to do and practicing some self-control. “It’s easy to get both distracted and disengaged once you’re out of the route of classes,” says Miller. “So, give yourself a schedule and stick to it.  Tell yourself you are going to spend ‘x amount’ of time on your search each day and then follow through with it.” Finally, summer can be a great opportunity to research companies and figure out where you might want to apply for next summer. “Make some time to target those companies you really want to work for,” says Gillis.

So if you’re job-less and getting discouraged, this isn’t the time to give up—it’s the time to get going! With a little bit of effort (and some creativity), it’s not too late to set up plans for a productive and useful summer.

Madeline, a junior at Emerson College
Ramsay, a senior at Smith College
Suzanne Dagger, director of career services at Hofstra University
Donna Goldfelder, director of career services at Lehigh University
Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naive Job Seeker
Sharon Jones, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill
Rick Gillis, author of The Real Secret To Finding a Job
Salwa Muhammad, assistant director of internships and service learning at Wellesley College’s Center for Work and Service
Gary Miller, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill 

Laura is a senior (class of 2011) at UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in Journalism and French. She spent two years writing for her campus newspaper and interned at USA Weekend Magazine in D.C. this summer. She is also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and recently spent a semester studying abroad in the south of France. Besides reading and writing, she loves being outdoors (particularly hiking and backpacking, ideally in the N.C. mountains), traveling, coffee, and attempting to play the guitar and/or ukulele. Her major life goals include learning to salsa dance and swimming with manatees. Though the thought of entering the real world still terrifies her a little bit, she plans to pursue a career in the magazine or publishing industries.