Job market / Work experience

What if you don’t have an internship for summer?

An internship might have been nice but now you come to think of it a decent break would be good too. A bit of sun perhaps? Time to chillax? Maybe you just want to spend some time with friends. Great! You can do all that and still have a career productive summer – if you do some careful planning now.

No internship = nothing useful

OpportunityWrong! It’s hard to get a paid, structured internship over the summer, close to impossible if you’re in your first year at university. This doesn’t mean that you can’t advance your career aspirations during the vacation. In fact, the good news is that almost anything you do will help you in the application process for a job. So, what’s out there?

Customer Facing Jobs.

Graduate employers love these. You could work in a shop or a bar or a restaurant. For some this may feel as though you are doing a dull and mundane job. Don’t dismiss the experience!Think what you’re learning. You are enhancing your communication skills, you might be dealing with children or the elderly, not groups well represented on campus! You’ll have to be creative in finding ways to relate to the child in the shoe shop who doesn’t want to try on the school shoes, or the elderly person who wants a meal served within five minutes in a busy restaurant. You’ll probably be working as part of a team and you may well be negotiating or handling dispute resolution. You might also need to be meticulous in making sure that you get orders right, you’ll be demonstrating great attention to detail. The good news is that all of the above are exactly those employers look for in graduates and you’ll also be exhibiting a good work ethic. The job you thought might be a bit boring or beneath you can give you a real advantage.


This is another great way to boost your employability, (read my recent post on the  subject). You can almost certainly pick up all the skills referred to above. Think really carefully about what you do. If you want to be a lawyer how about offering to help at a Law Centre or CAB? If you want a career in finance perhaps you could offer to look after the accounts of a local charitable group. If you are interested in HR how about doing something working directly with a specific group of people you don’t normally interact with, perhaps those suffering from Alzheimer’s or who are at the end of their lives? It’ll build your resilience and empathy and most likely be very rewarding too!

Find a work shadowing opportunity.

You might not be able to get an internship but you can try to persuade someone to let you work shadow for a while.  Some people will be lucky enough to have family or friends who can offer opportunities. By all means take advantage of anything on offer, but if you’re not in this position don’t despair. Future employers will attach more value to some work experience you managed to broker yourself, so get going and try to make something happen. This is going to be easier if you can get to a bigger conurbation. If home is in the wilds of the countryside you might need to think whether there is anywhere you can stay for part of the summer. Perhaps your rented accommodation for the next academic year will be accessible? Once you have decided where you’ll be, think what you might want to shadow. Do your research and get ready for your approach. Dust off the CV and ponder the cover letter. What do you want? Work shadowing to build your CV and move your career aspirations forward. What might your target employer want? S/he probably doesn’t have an aspiration to advance your career and might regard having someone watching him / her as a bit of a nuisance. Can you frame your letter so that you’re not just pointing out how valuable it would be for you to have a shadowing opportunity? What about thinking what you could do for her/him? Perhaps you could provide some administrative help? Maybe the organisation needs some help with its social media? You’re much more likely to be successful if you can offer something of value.

Set up your own business.

This doesn’t have to be anything big scale. If there’s no job on the horizon for you, why not set up something for yourself? You could become the local gardener or provide IT support for businesses.  Think what great skills you’ll be picking up as you market yourself and your business idea. You’ll have lots to talk about at interview too.

Be Creative.

This is particularly important if you want a creative career. I am obviously a fan of blogging, but if you want a career involving any kind of writing it would be great idea to get blogging. You might set up your own blog, start to comment on other blogs or offer to write for a blog you admire and follow. Writing for journals and magazines or offering drawings or photographs could also be worthwhile. If you make unsolicited contact with publishers or bloggers offering your services you’re in a win/win situation. If they take your offering you’re on track to raise your profile. If they don’t, they might just think about you in the future. If it’s an outright no, then that’s fine too. You didn’t lose anything you already had! If your creativity is more in the field of the performing arts why not look out for drama projects to which you could contribute over the summer? There are lots about and many will be glad of an extra pair of hands. Just be aware that this might not be such a last minute thing. If you’re working with children or the vulnerable the organisers will need time to do the police DBR check to confirm your suitability.

So, the message is, there’s a lot out there for you to do during the summer. Throw yourself in to something which interests you or makes you money. Chances are you’ll end up enjoying it and you’ll have collected lots of lovely employability skills to impress prospective employers.




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