It is now April, and for students looking for opportunities this summer, the window is closing. Most corporations and non-profits have closed applications for summer jobs and internships at this point in the year and students who either failed to apply or were rejected are running out of time to find productive things to do this summer.
Luckily, the University of St Andrews has a robust system for finding summer placements for students. The Careers Center has both online and on-campus resources.
Online, there is a simple but well developed and well thought out system for finding summer opportunities. You can choose from regions (UK, Europe, World), type of opportunity (job, internship), and finally and most usefully, a tool with which you can specify what internships you’re looking for, whether that be advertising, government, law, or many other topics. One can, for example, look specifically for a short-term internship in London related to politics. The tool lets you rapidly narrow down your search and helps you from being overwhelmed by the variety and number of options, which are still many despite this late stage in the year. If you still feel unprepared, the Careers Center is there for you; going in to discuss my options, desires, and confusions helped me clarify exactly what I wanted to do with myself.
Additionally, if you cannot find any summer opportunity that would directly advance your future job prospects, there are other, more indirect ways to not only better yourself, but also your community. Local food banks, shelters, and other direct-action charities and organizations are almost always looking for volunteers. Besides being useful and good on its own, charity work is something that many types of employer look for from students. For example, government offices and political organizations like to see not just good grades and well-written cover letters but also genuine interest in helping others, especially direct and personal action taken by the applicant.
Ideally, you should try and tailor your volunteering to what you would like to do in the future: volunteering at retirement homes for medical students, volunteering to clean up local roads for environmental organizations, and so on. Balancing ambition and empathy in your CV is just as important as balancing them in life generally.
And finally, if worst comes to worst, finding a local job for the summer is not a loss in and of itself. Employers looking for interns, especially those that operate in office environments like government agencies and businesses, can be skittish about hiring an intern with zero practical work experience. A hiring office may ask itself, “sure, she does Model UN, is on the sailing team, and gets a 18.5 average, but can she work with customers, deal with stressful work environments, and show discipline?” Getting a reference from someone who you’ve actually had to earn a wage from can be very useful in assuaging the doubts of these employers. While getting said reference will probably require a great deal of menial work, perhaps you’ll develop some of that “character” your dad keeps going on about.
Ultimately, the thing to keep in mind is that unless you’re a first year, in which case taking the summer off can be acceptable, it’s better to do something than nothing. Becoming mentally paralyzed because the window for internship applications is closing is counterproductive. While many certainly have closed, there are still options out there for the student who is willing to put the time and effort into using the tools the University has given us. And if worst comes to worst, remember that no future employer looks down on applicants for working at a chip shop; many view previous hands-on work experience as a plus. At least that’s what I’ll be telling myself if my own applications are turned down.