There’s no denying that in today’s workplace: internships matter.
They give college students real-world experience and enable them to gain the soft skills we just can’t learn in the classroom. And, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2014 Internship and Co-Op Survey Report, which shows that employers offered full-time positions to 64.8 percent of their interns, they are a critical step in getting hired after graduation.
But what if you haven’t yet lined up an internship this summer? What if it seems like all the internships you want to apply to are already filled?
Some might say, “It’s fate, just relax and enjoy your summer.” Others might tell you, “Take advantage of the time… travel and have fun.” You might even hear: “You’re only young once!” But the reality is: they may be doing a much better job of saying what you want to hear rather than handing out the best career advice.
If you, so far, haven’t secured a summer internship, here are five things you should not do:
1. Stop Looking
If you find yourself without an internship this summer, do not give up. You may not have been able to land an internship yet, but with sites like Internships.com and InternMatch, continuing your search will be a breeze. Just log on, upload your resume, put in your keywords and apply until you land an interesting internship.
2. Do Nothing
Spending your summer at the pool or in bed may sound like a great idea right now, but even when you’re a student, employers get nervous about employment gaps. Instead of cruising the boardwalk or binge-watching Game of Thrones, find ways to build your resume. Not sure how? Try volunteering or freelancing.
Sites like LinkedIn for Volunteers, Writers Department, and Freelancer.com connect people looking to use their skills to build experience and help out organizations they are interested in. If you can’t find an internship at a company you like, maybe they are asking for volunteers or hiring a freelancer. You’ll never know if you sit around and do nothing.
3. Travel…Without a Purpose
Traveling for the summer can be fun, but if it keeps you from growing professionally, it may not be worth it. Recent research shows that candidates with pre-graduation experience in the field they are applying to are 14 percent more likely to land an interview for a full-time position. If you want to travel, find a way to gain industry experience while you do it.
If you’re traveling within the U.S., look for professional associations in the areas you are traveling to that may be holding meetings or conferences where you can learn and network. If you are thinking about traveling abroad, look for part-time or volunteer opportunities at companies in the country you are traveling to.
Bottom-line: If you don’t have an internship and decide you want to travel this summer, find ways to integrate professional growth and resume-building opportunities into your trip.
It’s OK that you don’t have an internship this summer, but don’t settle for a part-time job that has nothing to do with your interests. While that job at Freddy’s BBQ Joint from high school may be comfortable, it’s not going to help you in the long-run.
Instead of settling for something comfortable, look for opportunities that will help you build the skills employers are seeking. According to NACE’s Job Outlook 2015 survey, you should be looking to build your leadership, teamwork, written communication, and problem-solving skills to become more attractive to employers.
5. Stop Learning
Whether you want to be an artist, writer, programmer, engineer or banker, there are plenty of ways to learn on your own this summer that don’t require an internship.
Instead of waiting until the fall to start learning again, use the different resources out there to grow. For example, if you want to be a programmer, don’t wait for TECH 301 to learn how to code. use Codecademy to learn coding for free this summer. If you want to make yourself more attractive in any industry, use Duolingo to learn a new language. Use your time this summer to develop the skills you’ll need in your industry and, if possible, get certifications that may help you land a job.
Have you noticed the pattern yet? Just because you don’t land an internship doesn’t mean you should put your professional growth on hold for a whole summer. Taking a little time to relax is OK… that’s what summer is for! But if you want to give yourself the best chance for success in today’s job market, find ways to build your resume and grow professionally, internship or not.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friend Heather Huhman!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhuhman.