As ambitious undergraduate students, we are hardwired to be thinking about our futures all of the time—especially during the summer. The Summer Internship seems to be a staple for stocking up resumes, gaining experience, and making connections in our desired fields. Of course, if you have been able to secure one of these coveted early professional positions then your anxiety over making the most of the summer break has ended. But limited opportunities, stiff competition, and unmanageable costs mean that many of us are not so lucky to receive an internship offer and accept it. A lack of direction for the summer can feel detrimental to our academic and career goals, but all hope is not lost yet! There are so many ways to still have a productive and valuable summer full of experience, skill development, and resume building even without an internship. Here are a few to get you started.
Get a head start studying for an upcoming entrance exam: Standardized tests like the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, and GMAT often require a decent amount of preparation before test day, and we all know that there won’t be enough time during the busy school semester to dedicate to studying. Utilize the extra time you have over the summer and start a study regimen to make sure that you are ready if your post grad plans involve any type of graduate school. Khan Academy and Blueprint Prep offer convenient and free online study courses!
Create a personal website: You don’t need a professional job to showcase your abilities and develop your brand. Use your free time this summer to design a personal website that encompasses the essence of your interests, abilities, and style as a student, citizen, and worker. This can become a space for you to display examples of previous work, current projects, and your profile as an individual that you will be pitching throughout future job searches. A resource like this can be a unique and beneficial addition to an application and can help make a lasting impression.
Develop a portfolio: Especially if you’re a student of arts, media, or another area of design, having examples of previous work is important and valuable for future career moves. And just because you may not have assignments delegated from an internship job doesn't mean that you can’t spend the summer creating pieces of work to curate a portfolio! Showcase your talents and abilities on personal projects that you can use as supporting material for upcoming applications and opportunities.
Join a grassroots organization: Often during our summer job search we can get caught up in large and prestigious national companies and organizations, but it’s important not to lose sight of the opportunities with smaller and more local organizations that are right in front of you while you’re home for the break! Local grassroots organizations are likely desperate for volunteers and members to help with campaigning, advocacy, and philanthropic efforts. Getting involved in grassroots efforts in areas like local government, environmental causes, Parks and Recreation services, and small businesses can help you build skills like advocacy, flexibility, and the ‘startup mindset’ that are valuable for any future career. Do some research on organizations in your area that align with your interests and reach out!
Start a blog: I know that my fellow ladies at Her Campus Bucknell are all creative and fabulous writers, and if you are also a writer or are interested in any future endeavors that involve writing, a blog is a great medium to utilize this summer. Designing a personal blog can be simple with the help of programs like WordPress, and it is an amazing opportunity for self-publishing. Cultivate a collection of your proudest works and publish them on a blog to showcase your talents and demonstrate your drive and degree of interest in writing. Continue to post entries and sooner than later you will have created a personal publication that shows your passion and indicates initiative.
Start a regular volunteering schedule: It is far too common for students our age to complain about their lack of opportunities and boredom in the summer, when in reality we only need to take a look around our communities to see the plethora of meaningful opportunities to make a difference. We may participate in occasional community service while at school, but the summertime offers the stability to make a consistent and worthy contribution to a philanthropic cause. Reach out to local charitable organizations in your area that are looking for volunteers and set up a regular schedule to help out. Organizations like food pantries and soup kitchens are more often than not looking for volunteers that they can rely on for more than just a few sporadic hours of help. Put your summer to truly good use by giving back to the communities that have given so much to you!
Participate in local campaigning: The presidential election may be over but that doesn’t mean that the campaigning stops for political organizations. If you’re interested in politics, government, or the public sector, consider trying to gain experience with a campaign effort. Many positions like manning telephones, knocking on doors, and participating in demonstrations are dependent on volunteers and provide hands on experience in the industry. Non-political organizations have campaign efforts as well! Do some research to find organizations launching campaigns that are of interest to you and see what you can do to help out!
Strengthen your LinkedIn profile, resume, and job search materials: It’s totally understandable that during the craziness of the semester the details of your LinkedIn page get overlooked and you bypass most of the Career Center’s programs. Take advantage of the extra time that you have in the summer to explore resources and learn how to clean up your resume, elaborate your LinkedIn profile, and strengthen your cover letters. You’ll be thanking yourself for doing this work now when you’re trying to balance the career process with school, extracurriculars, and social life.
Work a service job: Don’t forget that professional internships are not the only valuable and lucrative summer job opportunities. Working in the restaurant, retail, and service industries are great ways to make money and gain relevant skills. While you may not be gaining experience in your specific desired professional field, you will be gaining lots of transferable skills like personable interaction, teamwork, composure under pressure, multitasking, and organization that are just as valuable on a resume!
Investigate an independent research inquiry: You don’t need the title of Research Intern to take on an interesting project during the summer and produce results. As long as you have access to your school’s library and databases and a motivating question to investigate, you can conduct and manage your own summer research project. If this seems too ambitious, reach out to a favorite professor in the field and ask if they would be willing to mentor you or review your final paper and results for more professional approval. At the end of the summer you will have gained research experience and produced impressive materials all thanks to your own initiative.
Enroll in summer courses: If your school or a school nearby at home is offering summer courses, consider registering for a few classes. If you are able to afford them, summer courses are a great opportunity to earn credits towards graduation, boost your GPA, or add an extra minor or major without needing to overload in the regular fall and spring semesters. Not to mention, taking a class over the summer will keep those learning skills in good shape so that you don’t regress or struggle with the transition back into schoolwork come fall.
Launch an entrepreneurial idea: If you’ve been sitting on a “million dollar idea” for years, now is the time! Use the freedom of your summer break to start working towards making your own business. The beauty of 2021 is that companies can get started on social media and don’t require extreme connections or funding to get started in the beginning. Develop your product, design a brand, and launch your entrepreneurial side hustle!