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No Internship? No Worries. How to Fill Academic Breaks With Purpose

Posted May 02, 2018 by Hannah DeBevoise - Coordinator, Social Media - AACSB International

For many universities, the summer break or end of the academic year is right around the corner. It’s common for business students of all levels to spend this time away from school in an internship, building skills, and applying their studies to real-life situations. But what if you weren’t able to secure an internship for this break? By no means does this mean you have to fall behind your classmates or on the goals you’ve set for yourself. There are plenty of ways to spend your break working toward building yourself as a rising business professional and leader, even without an official internship.

1. Get a summer job. A traditional, customer-facing job is always a great option for university students on an academic break. From retail to food service, or even driving for a ride-share service, all have the potential to provide great experiences. What may seem like a mundane or ordinary job can offer opportunities for learning experiences that you don’t get on campus or even in professional internships. These jobs can help you enhance soft skills, like communication, teamwork, responsibility, and time management. Potential employers are looking to hire individuals who can prove they are well-rounded and can apply what they’ve learned—not only in the classroom but also in real-life situations—to projects and their positions.

2. Keep your education going. Just because your university is on an academic break doesn’t mean you need to be. A break from school opens up the time you’ve devoted to required classes and allows you to pursue learning in areas you are truly passionate about. Local community or four-year universities offer classes year-round. Research their offerings and register for a course or two that interest you. Not only does this supplemental knowledge add value to you as a learner and a future business leader, but it also may apply to your necessary credits and move you closer to graduation.

Traditional university education isn’t the only option. Take advantage of the growing industry of online learning and use your time to take some free courses available on the internet. A lot of high-quality websites offer courses in topics from coding to the history of humankind. Check out Coursera, Alison, edX, or LinkedIn Learning to see what courses are available that might interest you. Some of these platforms even offer certificate programs, an accomplishment that would look great on a resume.

3. Volunteer. While there will likely be plenty of options for volunteering at a local food or animal shelter, there are organizations everywhere that don’t have the financial capacity to hire the staff they need. Sharpen your coding skills by helping a nonprofit build a website, or enhance your public speaking skills by volunteering as a docent at a local museum. Websites like VolunteerMatch offer search functions to help connect you with available positions by industry and skills needed. Adding a volunteer position to your resume can look just as valuable as an internship and demonstrate to potential employers that you are a willing and dedicated worker.

4. Network, join a club, build your community. Now that your days are open and free of a rigid class schedule, you can spend your time connecting with family friends and alumni who currently work in the industry or a position you are interested in. Reach out personally, whether by phone, email, or LinkedIn and ask if they have time to sit down with you for a cup of coffee and conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are other opportunities they can help you with; even shadowing them for a day could be a worthwhile experience and would introduce you to more potential connections in the industry.

Think about building a network outside of those you already know. Consider joining a club; whether a running group, book club, or kickball league, clubs are a great way to expand your community and network with people inside and outside your industry, all while having fun!

5. Work on your personal brand. The idea of sitting down and perfecting your resume may not be the most appealing use of your time during vacation or on holiday, but now is the perfect opportunity to focus on just that. A few months unrestricted by other requirements can free up time for you to think about how you want to present yourself to potential employers. Who are you, how do you work, what are you passionate about? Without the distractions of classes, spend your break building a personal website that hosts your resume, project examples, and even a blog that showcases your volunteer and personal endeavors. Squarespace and Wix offer free tools to build impressive websites. Adding this ability to your resume or cover letter invites potential employers and interviewers to get a snapshot of who they may be adding to their team, and shows off your ability and familiarity of technology.

6. Get a little "me time" in. It’s important to remember that a break from school is first and foremost a time to relax and prepare yourself for the next semester. There is undoubtedly stress that has built up over the course of the school year, and this is your time to unwind and enjoy yourself a bit. Whether that includes travel, completing a goal you’ve been working toward, or just catching up with friends and family, it’s important not to underestimate the need for self-care. Plus, you never know what you can accomplish when you’re enjoying yourself that may enhance your professional abilities!

Not having an internship over a school break isn’t the end of the world. There are abundant opportunities for you to spend your time growing as a student, future leader, and individual. The most important factor to keep in mind is that every situation has the potential to contribute to your growth. Keep your eyes and mind open, and enjoy your time away from the classroom!