Monday, May 7, 2018

You Didn't Get an Internship -- Now What?

Many people have now learned the value of getting an internship. An internship can open doors for a permanent job, it can teach you a variety of skills and it can help you make key contacts. It can even help you learn that this chosen field is a big mistake, and you need to explore other options.

Still, getting an internship can be tough. There's a lot of competition for good internships, and some companies dilly-dally around so long they never getting around to making an offer.

So what happens if you don't get an internship offer?

Well, part of you may be a bit happy. You figure that you can spend your time playing Fortnite or traveling around the country, sleeping on the couches of various friends and relatives.

But another part of you is a bit concerned. Lots of other people got internships, but not you. It may have been something you did or didn't do, but at this point, that doesn't matter. What matters is how you're going to handle the lack of an internship and make sure you don't fall behind because of it.

Here's the key: You need to be able to answer "So, you didn't have an internship. What did you do?" from a job interviewer. If you respond "I played Fortnite for 18 hours a day" or "I couch surfed and bummed food off my friends," then that's not going to be very impressive.

You need to be able to show you did something that helped you to grow or learn. So here are some options:

  • Take classes. If you can't afford college summer school, then try to get into something else. See if your local community center or library offers classes related to your interests, whether it's starting a small business, growing local produce or learning how to code. 
  • Volunteer. Here's the reality: No volunteer organization turns down volunteers. Again, try to link it to your career interests, whether it's in a local hospital, a recycling center or helping to organize a community event. Many professors are looking for people to help out during the summer months, whether it's organizing data or working in a lab. Ask. They will certainly be open to volunteers.
  • Be innovative. Can you design an app? Can you figure out a better system to track local donations at the food bank? Can you set up a volunteer crew to collect sports equipment for underprivileged children? The key is that you use your own brain power to come up with something new or better. 
  • Get a job. There's no profession out there -- whether it's rocket scientist or elementary school teacher -- that doesn't appreciate the person who's put in time dishing up ice cream or running a lawn mower. I know many people who didn't have the stellar grades or dozens of extracurricular activities who still landed great jobs from employers who were glad to have someone who simply knew how to work with other people.
If you don't get an internship, it's not the end of the world. The key is using the time to gain many of the same skills you would get with an internship. So, look for things that show you can be a team player, can think creatively, are willing to take the initiative and aren't afraid to work hard. 

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