Exploration Stories + Advice

You Don’t Need a 9-5 Internship to Have a Meaningful Summer

I’m right with you—you’re mentally exhausted, burnt out from the long semester, and feeling discouraged after receiving ‘no’ after ‘no’ from summer internship recruiters (or even worse, not hearing back at all…). I’m the first to say that this feeling sucks

If you resonated with any of that, keep reading! 

At BC, people seem to think that the ‘best’ way to spend your summer is by doing some kind of 9-5 internship with a fancy title at a big company. But what people don’t share is that sometimes, the most fulfilling summer experiences come from a combination of opportunities that you might not even know are available to you. Best part? Anyone can create a meaningful summer using the list below as a starting point, no matter how many ‘no’s’ you’ve received. 

Take a summer course. 

Summer is a great time to knock out course requirements or take an interesting course you wouldn’t have time to take during the year. In addition to BC’s summer courses which are being offered in a variety of formats, you can take free, online classes to learn new skills like languages and coding. Additionally, if you are interested in a particular field and know that you need to brush up on a certain skill in order to get hired, it would be beneficial to practice that skill in one of these courses. Or, participate in Praxis, a self-paced, online program that the Career Center offers to help you recognize and develop skills sought by employers.

Volunteer in a different state or country. 

There are many organizations that offer free housing and/or travel in exchange for volunteer work. This could be a great option if you are itching for adventure, even if it’s just for a week or two. Last summer, I volunteered on a farm in Maine (through WWOOF) on a whim without knowing anything about farming, and loved getting to do something unique and different! It’s a great way to learn about a new culture, lifestyle, or place. Plus, employers love to see that you are willing to try something new! Check out these resources:

  • WWOOF: facilitates homestays on organic farms 
  • Workaway: arranges homestays in exchange for volunteer work in the community
  • Projects Abroad: volunteer or intern abroad

Create your own internship.

While it’s not talked about as much as formal internships, reaching out to your connections to offer your help over the summer is a great way to create opportunities for yourself. Especially during COVID, smaller companies and organizations need extra help but might not be posting official job posts. To start, make a list of people that you or your friends and family know that have interesting jobs. Send them a message like the example one below. I’ve found that these opportunities have been even more impactful for me than official summer internships because I’ve been able to build off of pre-existing relationships and do more hands-on work. 

Dear __, I hope you are doing well! [Add something personal here]. I am interested in pursuing a career in ____ and I am hoping to get experience in the field this summer. I am aware that you work at ___ as a ___, and I am reaching out to offer my help in any way I can this summer. If you are in need of an extra set of hands for projects or other work, I would be happy to help. Please feel free to call me at ___ to discuss this further. Thank you!

Do a job shadow or two.

Similar to the last tip, you can ask your contacts to see if you can shadow them either virtually or in-person to learn more about their day-to-day job. Eagle Exchange is also a great resource to find alumni in industries you’re interested in and send a message asking about a potential job shadow. Check out how to set up a job shadow through Eagle Exchange for more information. Additionally, many hospitals and healthcare settings provide observation hours for those interested in pursuing careers in medicine.

Pick up a side hustle.

I am a huge fan of working part-time jobs no matter what time of the year it is. Whether you wait tables, babysit, or work any minimum wage job, picking up a side hustle could give you some extra cash so that you can explore your interests. Additionally, working on the side shows employers that you can manage your time and are a hard worker. Want to go one step further? Make your own side hustle by starting your own business! You could open your own Etsy shop if you are creative, or sell some of your clothes that you don’t wear online.  

From here, the possibilities are endless—you could take a course for one month and then volunteer for the other, babysit in the morning and shadow in the afternoon, or even become a full-on entrepreneur and start your dream business! If you got anything from this blog post, I hope you realize that you don’t have to have the perfect summer internship in order to be successful. In fact, you can wear many different hats with no titles and have an even more meaningful summer.

Don’t hesitate to meet with a career coach to discuss your options. No matter how many times you’ve wanted to give up in your search, you are so deserving of having a fulfilling summer and I know you can do this! You got this!

—Claire Bergman, LSOEHD ’22

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