We’ve all been there. You had three exams to prepare for, a long piece of coursework and at least 17 pressing social engagements that you had to attend. One week led into another and before you knew it, it was the end of the term and all of the summer internship schemes had closed. Your more organised friends have started making you feel guilty.
But don’t fear, that summer internship isn’t necessarily a pipe dream. It might feel like you’ve missed the boat, but there’s still plenty you can do to gain experience, bolster your CV and learn some important skills.
Start looking smaller
Many of the larger companies and top graduate employers will have long, drawn out application processes for their summer internships. The same can’t be said for all businesses.
Employers can leave things until the last minute too. Small businesses or start-ups are far more likely to still be looking for people to work for them late into the summer.
They are not likely to benefit from the kind of established university relationships that allow the big employers to push prolonged hiring drives. The number of people they chose to take on is more likely to reflect and react to sudden changes within the business or in the wider world.
As a result, you’d be surprised at how many employers are still listing short internships right into late summer. You just need to broaden your search.
Search a range of job boards, as well as utilising LinkedIn and other social media where smaller companies are more likely to advertise their roles. Companies with smaller advertising budgets are also more likely to use niche industry job boards too. Consider asking for help from your university careers service. They will know who has historically been hiring right until the end of the summer break.
If you’re at a loose end and are lucky enough to be living rent-free for the summer, a good compromise could be offering to volunteer for a charity.
This way, you’re able to work for a cause close to your heart, while gaining essential skills and experience in a role that you’re interested in. Whether applying for an official short-term placement or approaching a local charity to offer your services, there’s a wide range of roles that you can do which will boost your graduate CV.
For example, many charities require engaged, savvy university students to help with their marketing and PR teams. You could also put any data skills you have to use in an analytics position or get involved in communications and editorial work.
By working for something you believe in, it makes the entire process much more manageable. The training, achievements, and recommendations you get from the process could really help you in applying for another internship in the future or for a full-time position once you’ve graduated.
Get a DIY summer internship
Be bold to land your ideal summer internship. Start with a list of dream companies who you’d love to work for. Look round at local businesses who might have something to offer you.
From here, start getting in contact, whether by sending an engaging cold email, simply ringing up, or even dropping into their office. The key is to personalise each response. If these are companies that you truly want to work for then it’ll show.
The reason why you want to make sure that you’re personalising each response is that 10 amazing applications are much better than 100 inadequate, copy and pasted ones. Given that you’re approaching people unprompted, many might not get through. Once they do you want to make sure that you engage with whoever you’re dealing. Demonstrate what you can offer to a company and show how you’ll be an asset to the business.
Many managers will appreciate the tenacity involved in approaching them spontaneously. That’s why this approach can also be a great way to build future connections to put in use once you’ve graduated.
Don’t jump at any opportunity
When you’re getting a little desperate, you tend to lower your expectations. That’s Ok, but remember that you get to assess every offer too. Make sure you know your employment rights as an intern.
Work out why you want a summer internship in the first place. Fear of missing out is not a good enough reason alone and neither is getting your parents off your back. Think about your career after university and what skills and experience are necessary. Look at a dream graduate job specification to see what you need to complete by the time you graduate.
Faced with a less than ideal internship, develop your own skills and look at other ways of gaining relevant experience. Consider just taking some time out to organise your priorities and prepare for your next year of study.
It’s not all about the internship
Whether you’re not sure if an internship is for you or you really are still drawing a blank, remember that it’s not the only choice.
Your options are still very much open. Consider a temp office job instead of taking that part-time job in the café. Even a purely administrative role will show any future employers that you’ve got experience in an office environment. It’ll give you have a basic level of understanding that’s integral to succeeding in your graduate job.
You will have been taught certain systems and software. You will have a handle on some of the finer parts of working in an office. For example, negotiating office politics and dealing with management to how best to email your co-workers.
If money’s not a priority, then you might be better dedicating some of your summer to developing key skills. If your interest is in analytics, brush up on key Excel skills with Mr Excel. For coding, consider Coding Academy. It has a range of free online coding courses across different coding languages for all levels. There are all sorts of websites to improve your design skills, writing or website development.
Get in earlier to avoid missing the boat landing a summer internship with a top company for next year. Most applications will already be open, so start now!
Matt Arnerich works as a content writer at graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Whether you’re looking for graduate jobs in London, or graduate jobs in Manchester, they can help! If you want to read more of their graduate careers advice, check out their blog.