How To Make The Most Of An Internship-Less Summer

What are you doing this summer? If your answer is somewhere along the lines of, “Well, I didn’t get an internship, so I’m just gonna play Xbox and stare at the wall,” then this post is for you.

Yes, not getting the internship you wanted can suck, and it can make your summer seem like a three-month long void. Your plans have gone out the window, and you’re stuck in the house with nothing but basic cable and a bunch of boxes you don’t want to unpack.

Well, fear not! Failing to land an internship is not the worst thing that could happen to you – it’s far from it. In fact, not getting an internship could very well be the best thing that ever happened to you (not that those of you with one should feel mistaken). Think of it: you’ve got three months of unplanned, uninterrupted time. Many adults working their 9-5′s would do anything for a chunk of time like that. With that, here’s some ideas for how to make your internship-less summer a positive – nay, an awesome – experience. (I would just like to note that this was the first use of the word “nay” on College Info Geek. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the awkward to a minimum.)

Read this article, get some ideas, and then go out and do them. Your only other option is to spend your summer trying to get the Bladder of Steel achievement in Rock Band 2 – and that’s a really, really bittersweet achievement.

By the way, these are roughly ordered from lame to cool, but every one of these tips is useful.

Get a Part-Time Summer Job

Me, bakin'

Yours truly, circa age 16 – workin’ the summer bakery job.

It may not be an internship, but a part-time (or even full-time) summer job can fatten up your wallet and even put a dent in that monstrous student loan cloud you’ve got hanging over your head. If nothing else, a summer job will keep you out of your mom’s hair and give you enough resume fodder to nab that Starbucks Manager position once you graduate with your Philosophy degree.

Contrary to what you may believe, summer jobs are not merely limited to food and whiny customers who want you to bag their peanut butter and Kleenex in both paper and plastic – for “freshness” (and sadism). Nay (oops, did it again), there are actually non-internship jobs out there that you will actually like – and that you can get! If you have a little confidence and creativity, a plethora of diverse jobs will be open to you – jobs that “students” don’t normally end up doing.

For reference, here is a comprehensive list of the jobs I worked from high school up through today (including the crappy ones but not including my internship):

  • Grocery Bagger
  • Cashier
  • Cart Guy
  • Shelf Stocker
  • Table Busser
  • Pizza Maker
  • Corn Detassler
  • Agricultural Tractor Driver
  • Detassling Field Supervisor
  • Baker’s Assistant
  • Tutor (English, Accounting, Biology, Economics)
  • Bookkeeper
  • Tech Support Analyst
  • Virus Removal Specialist
  • Web Developer
  • Summer Campus Orientation Assistant

As you may have guessed, the jobs get better as you go down the list. Still, this is proof that you can in fact get a “non-typical” summer job as a student. I worked all of these before I was 20 years old (actually, I’m still not 20 years old). As long as you are confident and convince an employer that you’ll be an asset, you can find something great.

When applying for a summer job, I’d recommend actually visiting the business you’re interesting and personally introducing yourself to the manager. This not only identifies you as a motivated, professional individual and separates you from other applicants, but it also gives you the opportunity to personally highlight any special skills you have and to make a case for how hard you’re willing to work. Anything that keeps your face and name in the hiring manager’s head is a good thing, so make your best impression!

Take Summer Classes

Summer Class (image courtesy of Flickr user velkr0)

Summer classes are like this – but with about 20 students.

Taking summer classes is another really good idea that can help you get ahead. In fact, this is precisely what three of my good friends are doing right now. The nice thing about summer classes is that you usually don’t take a full load. You can take one or two classes, maybe work a part-time job on the side, and then have the remaining time to relax in the sun.

The main benefit of taking classes is that it lightens the load you have for the following semester. I’m a firm believer in having a somewhat light class schedule – it gives you time for jobs, extracurriculars, personal projects, and dinosaur fights in the halls of your dorm. Taking a summer class or two can mean the difference between a killer 18-credit schedule and a much nicer 13 credit schedule (13 because you can throw in that 1-credit underwater dynamite rigging class you’ve been wanting to take). You can also retake a class you didn’t do so hot on during a past semester to boost your GPA.

Make sure you are fully aware of your financial aid situation if you decide to take summer classes. Many scholarships don’t cover summer terms, so if you’re in the freeloader boat, make sure you find an alternate source of dough before registering.

Also be aware that summer classes can go fast. Often, an entire semester’s worth of material is packed into five or six weeks. Sometimes this means that the summer class is much easier than the same fall or spring class; other times they’re balls-to-the-wall difficult. Use RateMyProfessors and your older friends to get an idea of what you’re heading into.

Travel

Map (image courtesy of Flickr user katerha)

Summer’s the perfect time for getting outta Dodge.

Summer is also a great time to travel. If you have the money, summer provides you with the time you need to take that long-awaited backpacking trip to Europe – or at least to the Spam museum in Minnesota.

Even better, you can find out if your school offers summer study abroad opportunities. This kills two birds with one stone (don’t worry, they’re crows) – one, it lets you get some classwork done during the summer; two, you get to see a new place. Going abroad can actually look good on a resume – you’re getting experience in a different culture, possibly learning a new language, and showing that you are confident enough to break out of your comfort zone and try something new.

As with taking summer classes, make sure you figure out what the cost of your little sponsored excursion will be before you go getting your measles vaccination and buying travel books.

Start Your Own Project

Mark (image courtesy of Flickr user Crunchies2009)

I think this guy started his own project…

This is probably my favorite summer idea, and it’s one I’ve been practicing for a long time. Starting your own entrepreneurial project can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, and it can also give you a leg up on the competition when it comes time to graduate.

It’s never been easier to start your own business or project; the internet has provided us with more resources and tutorials than we know what to do with. You can find resources to inspire you, motivate you, educate you, mentor you, promote you, and sell you. Why not find something you love and pursue it?

I’ve been doing this exact thing for a long time. During the summer after I graduated high school, I started Radiant Web Design. In one summer, I learned how to create websites, write contracts, find customers, negotiate rates, market my business, invoice and bill clients, and I also developed a great portfolio and reputation. Oh, and did I mention I made $2,000? Not bad for sitting around coding in my bedroom :)

Last summer, I started a new project – this blog. At the time, my goal was to provide college success tips to new students at ISU, as well as develop a project that would look great to employers once I graduated. Now, College Info Geek has grown into something much larger. I took on a writing partner, and we’ve been getting readers from all around the world. Not only that, but working on this blog has shown me what I want to do with my life after graduation; it’s provided me with a focus.

Personal projects show you who you really are. Working for someone else can aide in your development, but it’s only when you strike out on your own into unknown waters that your grow to your fullest potential. Good news: an empty summer is the perfect time to get started! Build your own website, start a business, or just learn a new skill! Any of those things will help you out for sure :)

What are you doing with your summer? Let us know!

 

Ready to get serious?

Did you find this article useful?

2,261 awesome students are learning how to dominate their classes, get more done, and land the jobs they want - and you should too.

Join in, and I'll also send you a free chapter from my book, Hacking Productivity!

9 Comments:
  1. This is exactly how I wound up taking summer school this year. It was a bummer to not get my internships, but it also has given me a chance to get a BS when I would have otherwise gotten a BA, which is pretty sweet. The other people I know for whom this is true are flying across the US on standby and doing various interesting summer projects. It’s not a bad place to be.

    • Absolutely agree.  As a recruiter, I would say out of all of the things that impress me the most on a resume with little traditional work experience would be the project.  It telegraphs that you are a self-starter and speaks volumes if you accomplish something.  Also, it gives you a lot of great things to talk about in your interviews for next year.

      • I always end up talking about personal projects in my interviews; in fact, they usually overshadow my pretty extensive job experience!

  2. Love the post Thomas! Especially the pic from the bakery.

    I couldn’t agree more with starting your own projects. I remember a few summers back I didn’t get an internship and was quite disappointed at first. Then I realised, I have now time to work on my own ideas! That was  lot more fun and fully hooked on entrepreneurship now for sure! :)

    • Isn’t entrepreneurship just so rewarding? Even though I’m working full-time this summer, I’m still pursuing my projects – and taking up  pretty much all my free time doing it :P 

      Still, it’s what I love doing! I can tell you and Joel really love working on Buffer too; it definitely shows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

// Read This Next

The Value Of Value

Goals + Ambition: Check. Now go beyond the blog and get free tools to achieve them.