Your summer job or internship may be drawing to a close, but the doors to growth and career advancement are far from shutting. Beyond being a means to earn extra income, your summer job can often hold untapped potential for moving your career forward. These short-term experiences can wield substantial influence, serving as a stepping stone toward realizing your long-term career aspirations, and securing a job in the fall. From skills acquisition to networking secrets, I spoke to some experts for their advice on how to seamlessly transition your summer work experience into a valuable asset as you start your fall job hunt. With their combined years of expertise, these industry leaders provide invaluable insights into not just surviving, but thriving in the transitional career phase between summer and fall.
- Practice your skills.
According to LinkedIn Career Expert & Vice President of Integrated Consumer Communications Catherine Fisher, skills are more crucial than ever when it comes to landing opportunities in today’s job market. “More than 50% of companies hiring on LinkedIn explicitly use skills data to search and source candidates for their open roles,” Fisher says. That summer job that might seem insignificant? It’s a treasure trove of career-launching skills. Whether you were a camp counselor or worked as a florist, those experiences have equipped you with skills that employers value. Fisher suggests, “The more specific you can be about how you put your skills in action, the better.”
Lifestyle and career influencer Mira Bharatiya says both soft and organizational skills are key takeaways from summer gigs. She says, “Employers are looking for people with natural people skills and interpersonal skills such as communication, charisma, and relatability. It’s easier to teach technical skills than soft skills.” She also underscores the importance of organization. “Being organized and proactively supporting your team is the best way to add value as a younger person in corporate,” she says. “Practice your organizational skills at your summer gig, whether it’s managing calendars, coordinating shifts, or finding more efficient ways to accomplish your tasks!”
- Maximize your network.
Don’t be the wallflower when it comes to networking. Bharatiya advocates for putting yourself out there and maintaining connections. She says, “When networking, ask yourself, ‘What can I do for this person?’ not, ‘What can this person do for me?'”
Tyshaia Earnest, a strategist and creator, has advice on networking that’s clear: Don’t fade into the background. She urges students to make an impact by actively engaging with others. “Being authentic, genuine, and helpful is key,” she adds. Tyshaia recommends attending company-wide events, debunking the idea of “no new friends” as an excuse. In her view, maximizing networking opportunities means stepping out of your comfort zone, especially if you consider yourself an introvert.
Fisher also sheds light on the power of networking, urging students to connect with colleagues, classmates, and family members on LinkedIn. These people can vouch for your work ethic and character. Fisher says, “Look for people in your desired industry or career path, and follow them for industry insights that could help you in your job search.” Even if an initial interaction doesn’t result in immediate job offers, nurturing these relationships over time can yield unexpected opportunities.
- Accept feedback.
Don’t shy away from it. Ask your supervisors or colleagues for insights, areas of improvement, and resources for learning. During interviews, tell employers examples of when you integrated feedback into your work, showcasing your willingness to learn and improve. Bharatiya says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Ask what areas you can improve in soft skills or technical skills. Ask if they have resources you can leverage for learning. Ask as many questions as possible, take advantage of the ‘I’m new here’ or ‘I’m an intern’ card!”
According to Earnest, seeking feedback from supervisors or colleagues is a smart move that demonstrates your willingness to learn and adapt. She suggests a friendly approach. “Approach them midway through your internship and towards the end. Express your eagerness to improve and ask for feedback on how you can do better.” When receiving feedback, take notes, be open to constructive criticism, and be ready to act on it.
- Extract lessons for the future.
Earnest’s recommendation for reflecting on your summer job is practical: keep a journal. “Note down all your lessons as they happen,” she says. This journal will be a valuable resource when you need to revisit your experiences and find compelling anecdotes to share in future interviews.
To begin reflecting, Bharatiya recommends using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response) framework, to distill your summer experiences into concise narratives. Bharatiya suggests preparing five or six STAR stories that encapsulate your growth and skills, and you’ll be ready to ace any qualitative interview question. She advises, “Always tell stories about the lessons you learned in this concise format.”
- Nurture Connections With references.
Strong references can make all the difference. Stay connected by engaging regularly — swipe up on IG stories, send holiday texts, or comment on LinkedIn posts. Bharatiya says, “Maintaining a good network is a skill that can help you stand out. Remember the little details, keep in touch regularly. A reference could help you stand out from other candidates, and potentially get them a referral bonus, too! If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.”
Fisher emphasizes LinkedIn as a platform to share knowledge gained from your summer gig. Engage with posts that align with your interests, and consider sharing insights or learnings in short-form posts. By sharing your professional journey, you provide your connections a glimpse into your unique contributions.
With Bharatiya, Earnest, and Fisher’s expert guidance, you can leverage your summer gig experiences to propel your career forward. Their insights offer a roadmap to seamless transition and growth, equipping you to make the most of this pivotal career phase.