There are several possible reasons why you aren't heading to an internship this summer. Maybe you chose to do something else, like working on your painting or caring for a family member. Maybe you tried your best to find a summer internship, but nothing worked out. Maybe you did get that perfect internship, but something changed at the last moment. (True story: I had a friend who got deported and therefore could not complete an internship abroad.) Or maybe you're a superhero like Spiderman. Between saving Mary Jane Watson from burning buildings and balancing a full course load at Empire State University, it's no wonder you really didn't have the free time necessary to conduct an involved job search. Too bad you can't put "vanquishing the Green Lantern" on your resume.
But now that you've finished the semester and summer is starting, it's time to start thinking about Peter Parker for a change. In other words, it's time to decide what to do with your summer, both to keep yourself entertained and to help your career prospects after graduation.
Five summer resume boosters if you didn't get an internship
If you are indeed Peter Parker--meaning that your chosen career path lies in the teaching profession--volunteering at a school or educational nonprofit is a great way to get some experience working with children. Many organizations across all industries take on summer volunteers. If you want to work in publishing, for instance, a lot of smaller publishing houses are always looking for volunteers. And even if you can't find a volunteer position in your field of choice, it's never a bad thing to get experience outside your normal comfort zone. Plus, worst case scenario, you've spent the summer helping a cause that is important to you.
When an employer is looking at a candidate just out of college, a lot of what he or she has to go off of is that candidate's academic background. A summer without an internship is therefore a great time to take classes, especially ones in which you learn skills that will be useful in your intended field. Start learning another language (or another programming language); take a finance course or a course on environmental economics. In short, look for something you can parlay into a genuine contribution wherever you intend to work. It will show your commitment to that career--always a plus to potential employers. And if defeating Dr. Octopus made your academic performance slip just a little, now is a great time to make up for that.
Get a "normal" summer job.
I know this sounds like a hopelessly antiquated concept, but a nice, old-fashioned summer job is a valuable use of your time. Not only will you make some cash; you will also inevitably learn a lot of marketable skills. Working in retail, for instance, provides hands-on sales experience and heightens your attention to detail. Working as a waiter or waitress requires you to learn customer service, problem-solve efficiently and on the go, and work well in a fast-paced environment. And a prospective employer will be ecstatic to hear you have these skills, regardless of their point of origin.
Especially if you plan to pursue a career in writing or with a large writing component, freelancing is a great way to get started. Take a look at some of your favorite publications, research what they're looking for, and send something in. Even if nothing comes of it, you can still generate contacts in the industry you would not have otherwise had.
A summer sans internship and arch-nemeses may be one of your only opportunities in the foreseeable future to go abroad for a long stint. Do the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain or brush up on your Chinese in Beijing. Carolyn C. Wise told me she once hired someone who had spent half a year in Brazil after graduating. The employee had basically just hung out, learned the language and soaked up the culture. The time in Brazil made her a more interesting candidate, even though it wasn't work experience, per se.
Above all, don't languish on your web (a/k/a your parents' couch) all summer wondering what could have been. A summer internship isn't the end-all-be-all, especially in -- and don't pretend you didn't see this one coming -- tough economic times like these.
--Written by Madison Priest