How I Redefined My Summer Internship
Summer is almost here friends, which is so exciting! But with summer can come the stress of internship hunts, grappling with an internship you don’t love or worse, another summer or year spent doing nothing to build the career you want.
One of my favorite things about career planning is getting creative and helping people find solutions to the things that stand in their way of career success. The internship experience is one of those that we all dream up - a position with our dream company, in the department we love, paid with help finding housing in the city of our dreams. But, when that dream doesn’t happen, we often get discouraged and say ‘no,’ to opportunities, instead of getting creative to make it happen. Keep reading to learn how I redefined my summer internship experiences.
I actually redefined the word ‘internship.’ What matters on your resume is work experience, whether it was labeled as an internship or just a summer job, whether it was paid or unpaid - it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re getting the experience.
I found ways to make my summer job work for my goals. For two summers in high school I worked at my school cleaning lockers, classrooms and doing lawn work to get the school ready for the next year; but for an hour every day I covered the phones in the district office during lunch. That was how I made my two summers of scrubbing permanent marker off lockers work for my future career in education. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t ideal, but I made it work and you can too. Talk with your supervisor to see if there’s something that you can do that will help build your resume like training your fellow employees, managing a short-term project or helping other full-time staff on their summer projects.
I reached out directly to create an internship. The summer in between my first and second year of graduate school, I knew I needed an internship outside of where I was studying. I was going home and needed something close by that I could commute to and from my parent’s house. I reached out to the one college nearby about working for them over the summer, in whatever way I could. It was a LONG SHOT, but I did it anyways and it ended up working out perfectly. I was able to work 10 hours a week planning a large event for the college in partnership with the local chamber of commerce. It all happened because I emailed them with an idea - don’t be afraid to that.
I made it work for me. That same summer I needed to make money. I knew that that internship was not going to be paid, since that was part of the deal. So, I worked with my summer job to adjust my hours so I could go to the internship in the afternoon. While I missed out on 5 hours of pay each week, it allowed me the flexibility to have that internship, while also making money for the next school year. If you don’t ask, you’ll always get a ‘no,’ so always check with your supervisors to see if they can shift things around to make something work for you. If you’re a loyal employee and you’ve shown your work ethic, they should be happy to help you!
In-depth volunteer experiences count as an internship. Just because something doesn’t have “internship” tacked on the end doesn’t mean that’s not what it is. Thinking back to my college experience and that of the students I work with, there are a lot of things that students do that provide just as much, if not more, experience in the work environment. Managing budgets, creating programs and marketing materials, outreach and communication and so much more are all important work experiences that any HR manager would want a new employee to have! In fact, those tasks are more meaningful and indicative of your asset to a workplace than running to grab coffee or shredding documents all day.
Don’t let the term ‘internship,’ limit you, especially when applying to jobs or talking about your experiences in an interview. There is so much more out there than the typical internship experience, so the next time you second-guess your opportunities or what you’ve done, rethink the word ‘internship,’ and redefine your career!