Advice for Making the Most of Summer, With or Without an Internship

One of the most common questions we get from students as we approach the months of April and May is, “What can I do this summer if I don’t find a traditional internship?” I’ve divided the advice we would give into two groups: advice for students who are looking to gain experience in their intended field, and advice for students who are still trying to decide what they really want to do after college.

For students who are looking to gain experience, our first piece of advice is always to make sure they are aware that many organizations are still hiring for remote and in-person opportunities. Handshake and LinkedIn are both valuable places to look for open opportunities – and new positions are listed every day, so it’s important to check back frequently. A career coach can always help students use other job search sites, as well, to find relevant opportunities.

But, it’s very true that a formal internship isn’t the only way to build marketable experience over the summer. Volunteering at an organization related to a student’s industry of interest is another great way to develop skillsets for a future job or internship search. Many students assume that a formal internship looks better on a resume than volunteering, but the truth is that some volunteering opportunities provide just as much exposure to the world of work and also result in great skill development, too. Since volunteering is unpaid, many students will take on a part-time job alongside their volunteer opportunities to ensure they are making money while building those relevant skills. Especially if a student is not taking classes over the summer, it is much easier to balance opportunities at more than one organization at a time.

If a student is still exploring and making decisions about what they want to do, especially as an underclassman, we have some additional pieces of advice. Firstly, these students should start building a network of connections with IU alumni and people in their personal or family networks. Some students will even ask around during April classes to learn if any of their peers have family members working in specific industries. This would be a great way for them to expand their networks and potentially line up informational interviews with the parents or contacts of their peers. Our internal networking platform, the Walter Center Success Network, is another great way for students to find alumni in career fields of interest. We will sometimes encourage students to complete as many informational interviews as possible over the summer months – this just means setting up a time to speak with people in different careers to learn about the qualifications, the benefits and challenges of the work, and any advice those individuals might have for a college student trying to make decisions about their future work. This is a highly impactful way for students to learn more about what they want or don’t want from a future career.

Secondly, these students should consider lining up some job shadows in career fields that pique their curiosity. Job shadows require low investment (usually, a few hours or perhaps a whole day) and allow students to really see what a day in the life of a specific career looks like. Like informational interviewing, this is a great way to learn more about work and start to whittle down options when it comes to industries of interest for future job applications.

Lastly, we always remind students that working at a part-time job, even if it isn’t relevant or aligned to their future goals, is still a great way to build skillsets. Whether a student is working on campus, in retail, in food service, or at a summer camp, there are valuable skills being developed that are still persuasive with employers across industries. If any of your students still have questions about what to do with their time this summer, please encourage them to visit us: we’re here all summer long and we’re happy to help them build a customized plan to make sure they’re making the most of the summer months!

By Justin Zuschlag
Justin Zuschlag Senior Associate Director, Career Education