Scene: Undergraduate Junior. Summer before senior year: “the” time to have an internship. NO INTERNSHIP.
It sounds like a very dismal situation, but if you are in this position: fear not. While it may seem like everyone and their mom is interning somewhere, there are still a large majority of students who are not. Please don’t get down on yourself too much. I understand that it’s hard considering how much everyone stresses interning, but it doesn’t happen for everyone. There are other things you can do in the meantime to give yourself the experience you need, or hold yourself over until the next semester. If you’re interested, keep reading to see some of my suggestions on what you can do during the summer in place of an internship.
I thought it was very important to speak on this since I am in this position now. I’ve been home since mid-May, and only a week ago did I stop beating myself up for not having anything “substantial” to show for myself, especially when comparing myself to my friends. I kept hearing all the comments about how maybe I didn’t “try hard enough” or “took too long” to get on the process, all of which frustrated me even more than I already was. I didn’t wake up in March and decide to apply to 2 internships. I was part of an internship placement program and had interviews, I started my applications in January like you’re supposed to, and applied to maybe 10 programs altogether (even more afterward when time started crunching down). Despite this, I didn’t land a single one.
Getting Internships is HARD
The first and most important thing to remember is that getting internships is NOT EASY. It’s basically the same as applying for a job if you think about it. You’re competing with thousands of students to fill sometimes as little as 2 spots. If you applied to a number of internships and didn’t get accepted, don’t harp on it too much. Yes, it would have been nice to be one of the few who clinched whatever opportunity you were pursuing, but just remember that you tried. Take the process as a lesson for what to do next time around.
If you are really dead set on doing something for the summer, here are some suggestions I have:
In my opinion, the next best thing aside from interning is volunteering (if possible) somewhere in your area of interest. If you think about it, it’s almost like doing an unpaid internship, except you look better since you are offering your time to an organization. This looks much better in my opinion because it demonstrates that you have some vested passion or interest in whatever it is you are pursuing. To jump on this, try Googling places nearby where you live or in the nearest metropolitan area to you (if it’s a commutable distance). Once you’ve gotten a list together, start looking at what exactly they do. Once you’ve gathered an idea of what interests you about them, think about how that fits into your career goals or interests. After that, contact them! It’s always best to call people, but if you’re unable to do that (or are someone who isn’t fond of phone calls) try sending an email to their HR person or another human being who will respond to you. I often try to avoid using the email they provide on contact forms or those generic “firstname.lastname@example.org” addresses because I feel like no one looks at them.
Tip: really make sure you have an understanding of why it is you want to be there. Places don’t want someone taking up room if they won’t actually be helping out or seem like they aren’t interested in learning.
If you can, maybe you can see if there is a professor in your department who is working on a research project of some sort. You can get an idea of a professor’s research interests from reading their bios on school websites (usually) or by seeing what kinds of publications they have worked on (if necessary for their degree level). Once you’ve singled out which topics are of interest to you, you can contact them to see if there is any way you can get involved in their research. This may take the form of finding articles, proofreading, organizing information, or something else. Regardless, this can give you some insight into the research side of your area or study, and possible show you a specific area you may be interested in for future study or concentration.
Focus Groups/Research Studies
You can sign up to something like focusgroups.com, which I am to do focus group studies. Signing up doesn’t mean you will absolutely get to do the study, but it does direct you to opportunities. How it works is that you get an email telling you that you can participate in a screener to see if you are eligible to do the study. It will tell you the topic (apparel, electronics, banking, chronic pain, etc…), the reward (compensation or points), and the duration. You click the link, and you are brought to a page with the screener. These questions determine your eligibility to participate in the focus group since they need specific opinions. If you get past the screener, you are asked to submit your contact info and if the people running the study determine you are a good fit, they reach out to you!
Research studies can be a bit more straightforward. I come across these on big university’s pages. They’ll usually list the type of study, duration, compensation, and other miscellaneous requirements. You are usually supposed to email or call the person running it and they determine if you fit the criteria they are looking for. If selected, you can participate.
This one doesn’t take much thought. If you have items laying around your house, you can try selling them. If its clothing you aim to get rid of, try selling on Poshmark or Depop.
Try to Get a Job
Most summer jobs start their hiring process waaay earlier on in the year, but you may still be able to find a couple of late posters locally or on Indeed or something like that. If this is the case, try applying and see what you can get!
I just want to say that although these are suggestions they still might not pan out, and that’s okay. I have a fieldwork internship this upcoming fall semester, so I wasn’t terribly stressed about not having anything for the summer. However, some of these things still didn’t work out for me. Some places I was in contact with to volunteer stopped following up with me, and no matter how many places I applied to for jobs, I still couldn’t get hired. Eventually, I stopped and….
Did Some Career Research
Graduation might be in May, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to horse around. I’ve been doing some research regarding different career paths so I can try to hone in on what I should start applying to come January to try to secure a position come time for graduation. I’ve also been looking at careers that require a Master’s degree and the requirements for those programs to try to loosely plan how to prepare for that.
In closing, there’s always something to do. Yeah it may not be the conventional way or the way everyone is always down your throat about for you to be “successful,” but why stress yourself? There are always opportunities to learn, and if you take the time to not focus on what everyone says you should be doing, you can make something good out of this time.